Breast cancer is the 2nd most common type of cancer in women.1 In 2019, about 331,530 women are expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer (including invasive and noninvasive cancer) in the US.2
Invasive cancer is when the cancer spreads to areas outside the area where the cancer started. About 1 in 8 women will have invasive breast cancer at some point in their lives.3
In breast cancer, the cells in the breast divide more than they should and grow out of control. These cells can form an abnormal mass or tumor. The tumor can be benign (not cancer) or malignant (cancer). Malignant tumors can metastasize (spread) throughout the body.
Breast cancer also affects men, although it is much less common. About 1% of all US cases of breast cancer occur in men. Below are some risk factors and signs of breast cancer for both women and men.4
While a lot of information exists about breast cancer, some of what you have heard may not be accurate. Below is a list of some common myths and facts about breast cancer.
MYTH: If I don't have a family history of breast cancer, I won't get it.
FACT: Most people diagnosed with breast cancer have no known family history.
The biggest risk factors for breast cancer are being a woman and growing older. Other factors like environment and lifestyle should also be considered. However, if any close blood relative has had breast cancer, or if there is breast cancer in your family history (on either your mother or father's side), it should be taken seriously and shared with your doctor.
MYTH: If you maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly, eat healthy, and limit alcohol, you don’t have to worry about breast cancer.
FACT: Although these behaviors can help lower breast cancer risk, they can't eliminate it.
It is important to manage the risk factors that can be controlled, including diet and physical activity, However, it’s also important to get regular screenings, perform breast self-exams, and be alert to any unusual changes in your breasts. Remember, no matter how healthy your lifestyle may be, there’s never a 100% guarantee you won't get breast cancer.
MYTH: Using underarm antiperspirant can cause breast cancer.
FACT: There is no evidence of a connection between underarm antiperspirant and breast cancer, but the safety of antiperspirants is still being studied. A common belief is that underarm antiperspirants containing aluminum or other chemicals increase cancer risk by being absorbed into lymph nodes, and then working their way into breast cells. Underarm nicks from shaving is also thought to increase risk, as is the belief that antiperspirants prevent toxic substances from coming out of the body. While some Studies have found that women who use aluminum products under their arms, are more to have higher concentrations of aluminum in breast tissue, there is no proven link between antiperspirant use and breast cancer.
MYTH: Annual mammograms guarantee that breast cancer will be found early.
FACT: Although mammography is the best early-detection tool we have, it doesn't always find breast cancer at an early stage.
Mammography is a very good screening tool, but it can return a false-negative result. This means the images look normal even though cancer exists.
False negative screenings are how women can have a series of normal mammograms and then be diagnosed with advanced breast cancer. Breast cancer could also develop and grow quickly after a woman receives a true negative mammogram.
Mammography does catch most breast cancers, though. This is why regular screenings are so important. It's also important to pay attention to any changes in your breasts, perform monthly breast self-exams and have a physical breast exam by a health professional every year.
MYTH: Breast cancer always causes a lump you can feel.
FACT: Breast cancer might not cause a lump, especially when it first develops.
Breast cancer doesn't always cause a lump. By the time it does, the cancer might have already moved beyond the breast into the lymph nodes. Although performing breast self-exams is important and should be done, it isn’t a substitute for regular screening with mammography.
Some of the terms you might see when reviewing clinical trial information are defined as follows:
SURGERY - A procedure in which a surgeon removes cancer from the body
CHEMOTHERAPY - Drugs are used to potentially kill cancer cells and may shrink tumors
RADIATION THERAPY - Radiation may kill the cancer cells and shrink tumors
HORMONE THERAPY - This treatment may slow or stop the growth of breast and prostate cancers that use hormones to grow
IMMUNOTHERAPY - This treatment may help your body's own immune system fight cancer
Please note: not all of the treatment options mentioned are included in the available clinical trials discussed here.
Below you will find clinicial trial information for Bristol-Myers Squibb for breast cancer:
An Investigational Immuno-therapy Study to Investigate the Safety and Effectiveness of Nivolumab, and Nivolumab Combination Therapy in Virus-associated Tumors
A Study of Neoadjuvant Nivolumab + Abemaciclib or Palbociclib + Anastrozole in Post-Menopausal Women and Men With Primary Breast Cancer
Study of Nivolumab Versus Placebo in Participants With High-Risk Breast Cancer
If you decide you are ready to be a part of a clinical trial, but are unsure where to start, completing the pre-screener questionnaire is the first step. This questionnaire will include questions about your diagnosis that will help narrow down Clinical Trials that may be right for you.
You may be nervous at first, but taking action by completing this questionnaire is the first step in potentially helping others by contributing to breast cancer research. lf you do decide to enter a clinical trial, you are free to change your mind about participating at any point during the trial.
Be sure to ask your doctor questions about your diagnosis. Below are some breast cancer subtypes that may help you understand your type of cancer:
Knowing which type of breast cancer you have helps doctors decide how to treat it. For example, if your cancer is ER+, your doctor can develop a treatment plan that includes therapy to block estrogen from binding with ER+ cells.
Your participation in clinical trials that focus on tumors with these characteristics can help doctors as they make treatment decisions. You may also help to provide more treatment options to other patients diagnosed with the same tumors.
HER2— (human epidermal growth factor receptor 2-negative)
HER2— (human epidermal growth factor receptor 2-negative) cancer cells do not have a large amount of the HER2 protein on their surface. HER2 helps to control cell growth. Cancer cells that are HER2— may grow more slowly and are less likely to come back or spread to other parts of the body than cancer cells with large amount of HER2.
If you are helping your family member or friend through cancer treatment, you are a caregiver. This may mean helping with daily activities such as going to the doctor or making meals. It could also mean coordinating services and care. Or it may be giving emotional and spiritual support.
If you are caring for someone in a clinical trial, there are many things you can do to support them as they participate in the study, such as:
The following resources promote advocacy and may be helpful for those with or survivors of breast cancer, as well as their caregivers.
Bristol-Myers Squibb is not affiliated with nor endorses any of the listed organizations. The information/links provided by Bristol-Myers Squibb are meant for informational purposes only and are not meant to replace a physician's medical advice or imply endorsement. This is not an exhaustive list of resources for this condition. There may be others that you may wish to explore.
1. National Cancer Institute. Breast cancer prevention (POT I-patient version. https://www.cancer.gov/types/breast/patient/breast-prevention-pdq. Accessed November 6, 2019.
2. Cancer.Net. Breast cancer: statistics. https://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/breast-cancer/statlstlcs. Accessed November 6, 2019.
3. Breastcancer.org. US. breast cancer statistics. https://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/understand_bc/statistics. Accessed November 6, 2019.
4. Susan G Komen. Facts for life: breast cancer in men. https://ww5.komen.org/uploadedFiles/_Komen/Content/About_Breast_Cancer/Tools_and_Resources/Fact_Sheets_and_Breast_Self_Awareness_Cards/BreastCancerinMen.pdf Accessed November 6, 2019.
5. US Food and Drug Administration. Global participation in clinical trials report. July 2017. https://www.fda.gov/media/106725/download. Accessed November 6, 2019.
6. Anderson A, Borfitz D, Getz K. Global public attitudes about clinical research and patient experiences with clinical trials. JAMA Netw Open. 2018;1(6):e182969.doi:10.1001/ jamanetworkopen.2018.2969.