With credit to the movie Mean Girls for my blog post title today, I am setting aside humor for the moment. Let’s talk some real talk here. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It’s not about wearing pink (but feel free – I love it, too). Some facts for you:
In the United States, 1 in 8 women, and 1 in 1,000 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.
After skin cancer, it is the most common cancer diagnosis for women, accounting for an expected 30% of all new cancer diagnoses in women this year.
There will be over 300,000 women who will get that life-changing call from their doctor this year.
In 2017, there were well over 3 million US women who either currently have, or previously had, breast cancer.
Up to 10% of cases of breast cancer are caused by a genetic mutation (see more here about BRCA1 and BRCA2).
Less than 15% of those diagnosed have a family member who had breast cancer (with the risk almost double for those whose mother, daughter or sister are diagnosed) but an overwhelming 85% of those diagnosed have no family history of breast cancer.
Proper routine screening is instrumental in early detection of breast cancer. It is still true that in many cases that by the time it is able to be imaged, the cancerous cells have already been in the body for years. Standards in the United States recently changed, moving the year for baseline mammography for women with no family history of breast cancer to 45 from the former standard of 40. There is currently available 3D imaging, called tomosynthesis, that is a remarkable improvement over traditional 2D imaging. If you’d like to see a kind of mind-blowing example of that improvement, and learn a little more about the battle to require insurers to cover this advanced imaging, click here.
Those with heightened risk factors should seek the guidance of a trusted physician specializing in breast health, to determine when and how frequently to screen using either mammography, ultrasound, MRI or some combination of the three.
Regular self-examination is also recommended. For more information about proper technique, click here. There can also be external, visible changes to breast tissue that are indicators of possible breast cancer. This infographic from Know Your Lemons is excellent.
As much as I love the color pink, all the so-called “pinkwashing” – pink colored items to bring awareness to breast cancer research – doesn’t actually amount to dollars for research or the support of warriors fighting the battle. If you would like to help make a difference in the fight against breast cancer, we like these local organizations:
Most importantly, in October and every other day of the year, we wish you the best of health.
National Institutes of Health