Breast Cancer Awareness Month is an annual campaign to call attention and increase the awareness of breast cancer disease that takes place every month of October. But what is breast cancer? Breast cancer is the result of changes in the breast tissue that divide at uncontrollable rates, in turn causing a lump or mass to form. According to the Center of Disease Control (CDC), breast cancer is the second most common cancer among women in the US.

According to the American Cancer Society, The death rate of breast cancer patients has fallen by 40% between 1989 and 2017. Statistics by breastcancer.org indicates that 1 in every 8 women in the United States will develop breast cancer over the course of her lifetime; 1 in 39 will die. As of January 2020, there are more than 3.5 million women with a history of breast cancer. This includes patients currently in treatment and survivors who have completed their treatment.

The American Cancer Society has estimated that there will be 1,806,950 new cases and 605,520 cancer deaths this year (2020) alone. This is approximately, 4,950 new cases and 4,950 deaths every day. Although not as common, breast cancer can affect men as well. Early diagnosis can reduce one’s risk of dying from breast cancer. Early signs can be detected by a mammography screening (or an x-ray of the breast.)

The goal of the mammogram is to spot any tumors or breast abnormalities to detect cancer before the signs and symptoms become noticeable. While there is no exact age to start screening due to different risk factors, most people begin screening around the age of 40. Common signs of breast cancer include a change in the shape or feel of the nipple and/or nipple discharge.

Common risk factors for breast cancer include:

  • Obesity
  • Physical inactivity
  • Use of post-menopausal hormones
  • Family history
  • Age
  • Alcohol consumption.

There are 4 stages of breast cancer. The stages alert us of the size of the tumor and where it is located. The treatment depending on the stage and personal preferences can include:

  • Surgery: to remove cancerous tissues
  • Radiation therapy: to remove remaining cancerous tissues after surgery
  • Chemotherapy: drug treatment aimed to kill fast growing cancer cells

Breast cancer affects our lives from the patient, survivor, family member and caregivers. I encourage you to speak to your healthcare provider if you believe you have any symptoms or have an increased risk. Here, time is on our side. The earlier it can be diagnosed, the better.

However, if you are formally diagnosed with breast cancer, make sure you have a good understanding of the type of breast cancer you have, where it is located in the event it has spread to other areas, what stage is the cancer in, and your chances of survival. This will help you to make the best decisions in terms of your treatment.

When developing a treatment plan, make sure you know what your treatment options are, the goal of the treatment, how long it will last, its side’s effects, and what are chances of a recurrence.

Staying on top of the health of our breast is important. If you or a loved one has been affected by breast cancer in any way, please share the knowledge and join the movement to find a cure! We are in this together!

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