It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month!
Observed each year in October, National Breast Cancer Awareness Month has arrived.
It is a time to create a greater awareness of breast cancer along with nearly endless opportunities to show your support. Since I began blogging in 2013 I have posted about many of the charities and causes that I support. This is my fourth year posting about the topic of breast cancer and with it touching the lives of so many people it’s not going to be the last. About 1 in 8 U.S. women (about 12%) will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. As of March 2017, there are more than 3.1 million women with a history of breast cancer in the U.S. This includes women currently being treated and women who have finished treatment.
The Amercian Cancer Society (ACS) has published Cancer Facts & Figures annually since 1951. This annual report provides the estimated numbers of new cancer cases and deaths for the year, as well as current cancer incidence, mortality, and survival statistics and information on cancer symptoms, risk factors, early detection, and treatment. In 2017, there will be an estimated 1,688,780 new cancer cases diagnosed and 600,920 cancer deaths in the US. Of those, an estimated 252,710 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women in the U.S., along with 63,410 new cases of non-invasive (in situ) breast cancer. About 2,470 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in men in 2017. About 40,610 women in the U.S. are expected to die in 2017 from breast cancer!
Think Pink, Live Green is a way of living that aims to help women reduce their risk of developing breast cancer.
Just because you don’t have a family history of breast cancer does not mean that you will not develop it. About 85% of breast cancers occur in women who have no family history of breast cancer. These occur due to genetic mutations that happen as a result of the aging process and life in general, rather than inherited mutations. The most significant risk factors for breast cancer are gender (being a woman) and age (growing older).
We all want to know what we can do to lower our risk of breast cancer. While some of the factors such as being a woman, our age, and genetics cannot be changed. Other factors such as being overweight, lack of exercise, smoking cigarettes, and eating unhealthy food are things that we can change. By making the right choices and choosing the healthiest lifestyle options possible, we have the power to make sure our breast cancer risk is as low as possible.
Breast cancer risk factors that we have no control over:
- Being a Woman
- Family History
- Personal History of Breast Cancer
- Certain Breast Changes (read more)
- Having Dense Breasts
- DES (Diethylstilbestrol) Exposure
We may or may not have the ability to change these breast cancer risk factors.
- Menstrual, Pregnancy, and Breastfeeding History (read more)
- Radiation to Chest or Face Before Age 30
- Using HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy)
- Light Exposure at Night (read more)
These breast cancer risk factors we control over and have the ability to reduce by making healthy choices and changes in our lives.
- Being Overweight
- Drinking Alcohol
- Lack of Exercise
- Low of Vitamin D Levels
- Eating Unhealthy Food
- Exposure to Chemicals in Food (read more), Cosmetics, Plastic, Sunscreen, and Water
- Exposure to Chemicals for Lawns and Gardens
- Exposure to Chemicals When Food Is Grilled/Prepared
What is Breast Cancer?
The simple answer is breast cancer is an uncontrolled growth of breast cells. However, to better understand breast cancer, it helps to understand how any cancer can develop.
Normally, the cells in our bodies replace themselves through an orderly process of cell growth: healthy new cells take over as old ones die out. But over time, mutations can “turn on” certain genes and “turn off” others in a cell. The genes are in each cell’s nucleus, which acts as the “control room” of each cell. That changed cell gains the ability to keep dividing without control or order, producing more cells just like it and forming a tumor. When this happens, cancer occurs as a result of the mutations, or abnormal changes, in the genes responsible for regulating the growth of cells and keeping them healthy.
A tumor can be benign (not dangerous to health) or malignant (has the potential to be dangerous). Benign tumors are not considered cancerous: their cells are close to normal in appearance, they grow slowly, and they do not invade nearby tissues or spread to other parts of the body. Malignant tumors are considered cancerous. Left unchecked, malignant cells eventually can spread beyond the original tumor to other parts of the body. The term “breast cancer” refers to a malignant tumor that has developed from cells in the breast.
How is Breast Cancer Diagnosed?
Finding breast cancer early and getting state-of-the-art cancer treatment are the most important strategies to prevent deaths from breast cancer. Breast cancer that’s found early, when it’s small and has not spread, is easier to treat successfully. Getting regular screening tests is the most reliable way to find breast cancer early. After all, the goal of screening tests for breast cancer is to find it before it causes symptoms (like a lump that can be felt). Breast cancers found during screening exams are more likely to be smaller and still confined to the breast. As you know the size of a breast cancer and how far it has spread are some of the most important factors in predicting the prognosis for a woman with this disease.
Regular mammograms can help find breast cancer at an early stage, when treatment is most successful. A mammogram can find breast changes that could be cancer years before physical symptoms develop. Decades of research clearly show that women who have regular mammograms are more likely to have breast cancer found early, are less likely to need aggressive treatment like surgery to remove the breast (mastectomy) and chemotherapy, and are more likely to be cured. Women who are at high risk for breast cancer based on certain factors should get an MRI and a mammogram every year.
Research has not shown a clear benefit of physical breast exams done by either a health professional or by yourself for breast cancer screening when you also get regular mammograms. However, all women should be familiar with how their breasts normally look and feel and report any changes to a healthcare provider right away. Breastcancer.org believes that breast self-exams (BSE) are a useful and essential screening strategy, especially when used in combination with regular physical exams by a doctor and mammography. About 20% of the time, breast cancers are found by physical examination rather than by mammography. Learn the Five Steps of a Breast Self-Exam.
Free Breast Cancer Screenings
Believing that everyone should have access to potentially life-saving cancer screenings, Roper St. Francis along with Bon Secours Mission Grant and the Hank and Laurel Greer Colorectal Cancer Program, offer free breast and colon cancer screenings to the uninsured or underinsured. I’ve registered and will be going Tuesday, October 24, 2017, to the Roper St. Francis Cancer Center on the Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital campus for my screenings. Learn about this life-saving and FREE community resource.
Understanding a Breast Cancer Diagnosis
If you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer, you’ve probably heard a lot of different terms used to describe your cancer. You may also need more tests to get more details, such as the stage of the cancer or how fast it’s growing. Cancer.org has an excellent article to help you begin the understanding of a breast cancer diagnosis.
Thank you, for taking the time to read my 2017 National Breast Cancer Awareness Month PSA. Below, you will find some wonderful posts from previous years.
To learn the do and don’ts of purchasing breast cancer merchandise as well as how to best support research to find a cure be sure to read my 2016 post, Show Your Support for Breast Cancer Awareness Month Plus Facts You Need to Know.
In 2015, I posted October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month – Read How It’s Touched My Life. Please take a moment to read this very personal post.
Just two years after completing Chemo my sister signed up for the 2014 Lowcountry Komen Race for the Cure.