Statistics tell us that one in every eight women will be diagnosed with some form of breast cancer in her lifetime. South Africa does not have an accurate data of breast cancer incidence, mortality and survival – that is one of the things we are lobbying for as Advocates for Breast Cancer.
Based on what has been reported in countries that do have accurate data, we know that the risk for breast cancer increases as a woman gets older, and is greatest in post-menopausal women.
In the United States, the National Cancer institute studied women during the time period of 1975 and 2009. What they discovered was that one out of every 227 women aged 30 would develop breast cancer. At age 40, one in every 68 women would be diagnosed. By age 50, it is one in 43 and for 60 year old women, the risk is one in 28. At age 70, it is one in 28.
Another way to look at the figures is to say that 80% of breast cancers occur in women who are over 50 years old. Most men who get breast cancer are over 60.
Of course the figures look very scary, but it is worth remembering that seven out of eight women do not get breast cancer!
The most important thing to remember as you get older is to do regular breast self examinations, and to go for an annual mammography. We are lobbying for regular breast screening to become part of a breast health policy in South Africa so that the people who are at risk can be diagnosed and treated as early as possible. You can read more about what we are trying to do in this blog post.