As the clock ticks, someone looses a mother, a wife, a sister, a grandmother, an aunt, and a friend to breast cancer. The number of those diagnosed with breast cancer throughout the years seems to be increasing with such velocity that it has triggered much response from physicians, researchers and the community alike.
Globally, one million women are diagnosed with breast cancer worldwide. Hitting closer to home is the frightening reality that breast cancer accounts for the most common form of cancer to afflict women in the United States. For women in the U.S., breast cancer death rates are higher than those for any other cancer aside from lung cancer. In 2010, an estimated 207,090 new cases of invasive breast cancer were expected to be diagnosed in women in the U.S., along with 54,010 new cases of non-invasive (in situ) breast cancer. A staggering 200,000 women are diagnosed with this disease each year in U.S. alone. In fact, it is predicted that 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer over the course of her lifetime.
It is of extreme urgency that the magnitude of this disease be understood to prevent future loved ones from being afflicted with this disease that is potentially treatable and curable, if diagnosed in an appropriate amount of time. The most significant risk factors for breast cancer are gender, age and race. Breast cancer most commonly affects pre- and post-menopausal women. However, family history also plays a great role and should not be overlooked, as it potentially could be a risk factor for younger women. A woman’s risk of breast cancer approximately doubles if she has a first-degree relative such as a mother, sister or daughter who has been diagnosed with the disease. About 20 to 30 percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer typically have a family history of breast cancer. About 5 to 10 percent of breast cancer is connected to gene mutations inherited from one’s parents. The most common gene mutations associated with this are the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. Women who have this gene have an 80 percent risk of developing breast cancer during their lifespan and usually are diagnosed at a younger age, prior to menopause. About 70 to 80 percent of breast cancers occur in women who have no family history of breast cancer. The reason this occurs is due to genetic abnormalities that are caused by the natural aging process. Therefore, don’t overlook preventive screens as this disease does not solely affect those with a genetic predisposition due to family history but it affects everyone.
Race also seems to play a role in development of breast cancer. Caucasian women are slightly more likely to develop breast cancer than African American women, however studies have shown that Caucasian women are less likely to die from breast cancer that African American women. The reason behind this fact is that African American women tend to develop more aggressive tumors, but the reason as to why this occurs is unknown. Women of Asian, Hispanic and Native American descent have a lower risk of developing breast cancer and their risk of mortality from the disease is also lower than Caucasian and African American women.
However, even though the numbers are staggering for women, we tend to forget that this disease also affects men. About 1,970 new cases of invasive breast cancer were predicted to be diagnosed in men in 2010. Genetics seem to play a role in this for men, as well. One in 10 breast cancers found in men are related to the BRCA2 mutations and fewer of the cases due to the BRCA1 mutations. Despite the fact that men account for less that 1 percent of all new cases of breast cancer, it is still a figure that should not be overlooked.
However, with all these grim statistics comes hope with technological progress, research and a growing population of individuals being more informed and educated on this topic. Even though approximately 39,840 women in the U.S. were expected to die in 2010 from breast cancer, overall the death rates have been decreasing since 1990. From 1999 to 2006, breast cancer incidence rates in the U.S. decreased by about 2 percent per year. One reason that contributed to this decrease was partially due to the reduced use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) by women after the results of a large study called the Women’s Health Initiative that was published in 2002. The results of the study suggested a connection between HRT and increased breast cancer risk. Thus, due to treatment advances, early detection through screening and increased awareness the mortality rate continues to decrease. In fact, studies conducted in 2010 revealed that 2.5 million survivors of breast cancer were recorded in the U.S.
Call to Action
We can all play a part in the attempts to decrease and hopefully eradicate breast cancer one day. One easy way to contribute your support is by being a physical reminder by wearing something pink every Friday in October. The color pink has served as the banner of fighting breast cancer. We can show our solidarity and support by wearing something pink as an easy first step. Not only does it commemorate the lost loved ones, but it also serves as a light of hope and reminds those who may possess risk due to family history or symptoms to be proactive and seek a diagnosis and the appropriate treatment to decrease the chances of breast cancer-related mortality. This small action is a great way to create an impact and show support to those who have breast cancer. Also, it gives other newly diagnosed people the strength to battle this disease with hope. As the clock ticks, breast cancer claims the lives of loved ones all over the world. We can't stop time, but we can be proactive and follow simple steps of preventive care that will give us the upper hand in outsmarting this disease and trying to reverse the damage that it has done in the past.
Human Pink Ribbon
Join us at noon on October 21 on the front lawn at Sarah Bush Lincoln as we form a human pink ribbon. Be sure to wear a pink shirt for the photo. Our rain date is set for Oct. 28. All women who have a mammogram in October or schedule a mammogram during the month will receive a Power of Pink tote bag. Make the call to schedule your annual mammogram, 217 258-2588.