Compared to other forms of cancer, breast cancer gets a lot of attention. But that attention is well-deserved, because the chances of a woman developing breast cancer are greater than nearly any other form of cancer.
In fact, one in eight women will experience breast cancer during her lifetime, according to the American Cancer Society.
The good news is advances are being made every day to catch breast cancer earlier and treat it effectively once it's caught. Being diagnosed with breast cancer is far from a death sentence. The five-year survival rates are 93 percent for those who catch it in its earliest stage.
Due partially to its prevalence and improved treatment, approximately 2.5 million breast cancer survivors are living in the United States today.
In addition to the sheer number of people affected by the disease, breast cancer presents patients with many difficult, and often scary, decisions.
"People forget that one of the unique aspects of breast cancer is the fact that most women do have a choice," says Dr. Elisa Port, co-director of the Dubin Breast Center of the Tisch Cancer Institute at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York.
"They have a choice between lumpectomy and mastectomy, and oftentimes those choices are very equal. And that's just one example," she added.
Finding the information necessary to make these decisions and the support to get through cancer treatment procedures and beyond can be difficult.
Dr. Eva Andersson-Dubin, a breast cancer survivor, doctor and former Miss Sweden, helped fund and develop the recently opened Dubin Breast Center, along with co-directors Dr. Port and Dr. George Raptis, in hopes of providing a facility where patients could find these services and information under one roof.
If you're dealing with breast cancer, or are a survivor, Dubin recommends looking for the following type of care:
-- Finding a care center where all services are located under one roof can greatly ease much of the stress that comes along with your fight against cancer. Choosing a facility that allows you to have one electronic medical record, while also offering screening, treatment and counseling services, can streamline your experience and allow you to devote all of your attention to getting better. Through her own experiences and from talking to other women who have dealt with breast cancer, Dubin found that lugging scans and paperwork from appointment to appointment is one of the largest sources of frustration for patients.
-- Beating cancer means more than just winning the physical battle. Much of the fight against cancer and the life changes it brings is psychological. Look for a treatment facility that cares for the whole patient by offering services like oncofertility (reproductive health for cancer patients), nutrition and psychological counseling, and possibly even massage therapy.
-- Ask if your care center has radiologists who specialize in mammography, breast ultrasound, breast MRI and breast biopsy. You might also ask if the center has digital mammography and any new technology such as 3D mammography -- an advanced version of a conventional mammogram. 3D mammography, called tomosynthesis, helps radiologists see through layers of breast tissue facilitating the early diagnosis of breast cancer and reducing callbacks for additional screening, which can cause stress and anxiety.
-- Look for a care center that offers care options well after your treatment has finished. Because a brush with cancer is a life-altering experience, having someone there to provide counseling services or answer questions as you go forward is an invaluable resource.
Experts in the field of breast cancer treatment agree that a comprehensive, lifelong approach to treatment is best.
"Those with breast cancer benefit enormously from a comprehensive approach to their care that also focuses on their needs as individuals," says Nancy G. Brinker, founder and CEO of Susan G. Komen for the Cure.
Since early detection is key when battling breast cancer, the Mount Sinai Medical Center urges anyone experiencing the following symptoms of breast cancer to visit a physician:
-- A lump or thickening near the breast, in your underarm area or in your neck.
-- A change in the size or shape of a breast.
-- Nipple discharge or tenderness, or the nipple becoming pulled back or inverted into the breast.
-- The skin of your breast becoming ridged or pitted, similar to the skin of an orange.
-- Any change in the way your breast looks or feels.
For more information on breast cancer and treatment visit www.dubinbreastcenter.org.