About one in eight women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime, according to the American Cancer Society, making breast cancer the most common cancer in women, aside from skin cancers.
While the prevalence of breast cancer is high in the United States, the survival rate is equally high — 90% of patients beat the cancer. A big key is catching it early. Recently, the United States Preventive Services Task Force took a significant step toward encouraging early detection when it changed its guidelines to recommend that women get mammograms starting at age 40 instead of 50.
“The new recommendation is based on new research showing that more women are being diagnosed with cancer at earlier ages,” says Dr. Luona Sun, a breast surgeon at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center and assistant professor of surgery at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons.
But Dr. Sun says that if you are diagnosed early and follow through with proper treatments, the prognosis is actually very good. “I tell my patients, don’t be scared of the diagnosis itself, but fully recognize the facts and proactively participate in your treatments.”
Health Matters spoke with Dr. Sun to get the facts about breast cancer and understand why early detection is so important for fighting—and beating—breast cancer. Here are six facts she wants people to know.