Breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer affecting women nationwide with over 3.5 million breast cancer survivors alive today thanks to groundbreaking research like that from UCLA that has led to the development of two widely used therapies for the treatment of women with breast cancer. At UCLA, we treat over 1,500 newly diagnosed breast cancer patients every year with precision and personalized treatment tailored to every patient. We have dedicated breast surgeons and reconstructive surgeons, medical oncologists and radiation oncologists located throughout the Los Angeles and Orange County areas available to guide you through your multidisciplinary treatment and care. With our patient navigators and physician extenders, our goal is to unburden you of the logistics of treatment so that you can focus entirely on your cure.
This is undoubtedly the most common question running through a patient’s mind when he or she is diagnosed with breast cancer. While breast cancer can develop in men, it is by far more common in women. Unfortunately, the answer is rarely clear and often never one thing.
While 5-10% of patients may carry a mutation in a gene known to increase breast cancer risk (e.g. BRCA 1/2), most patients do not have an inherited disorder that increases breast cancer risk. This does not mean that it wasn’t “genetic” per se, just that the tendency toward breast cancer development was not passed to the patient from his/her parents through one of the currently known and identifiable mutations. Most breast cancers do arise from a series of genetic alterations that occur during a patient’s lifetime. What these specific changes are or what caused them to occur may never be known.
Certainly, the most common risk for breast cancer development is having breast tissue and estrogen. Every month during a woman’s childbearing years, her breast cells are asked to replicate and grow in preparation for breast-feeding in case a woman gets pregnant. If pregnancy does not occur, the hormone levels return to normal and the cellular activity decreases. Month after month, year after year, and decade after decade, the breast cells are stimulated by estrogen to undergo this replicative process, and it is in this repetitive process that sequential errors or changes in the genes can occur that set the stage for cancer development and growth. Other factors, such as dietary, environmental, inflammatory, stress, etc. also likely contribute to breast cancer development but it is very difficult to pinpoint any one cause.
Fortunately, regardless of the cause, most breast cancers are very curable >