October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month 2018
Statistics tell us that one in 1 in 4 people will experience and die from one form of cancer in their lifetime. Given these percentages I am sure everyone has had cancer touch a loved one or close friend in their life. It is a devastating diagnosis which brings about thoughts of one’s own mortality and how fragile life can be. Cancer is expected to strike over 1,735,350 Americans in 2018 with over 600,000 succumbing to cancer this year (1). It is the second common cause of of death in the US behind heart disease for adults and the second common cause of death in children behind accidents.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month Facts
The most common cancers being tracked by the American Cancer Society (ACS) include (1):
|Cancer Type||Change Rate||Estimated Deaths|
|Brain and nervous system||Increase by 0.6%||16,830|
|Female breast||Stable (and declining with early detection)||41,400|
|Colon and rectum||Declining by 2.4%||50,630|
|Leukemia||Increasing by 1.6%||24,370|
|Liver||Increasing by 3%||30,200|
|Lung and bronchus||Decreasing (due to smoking cessation in women)||154,050|
|Ovary||Decreasing by 1%||14,080|
|Pancreas||Increasing by 0.2%||44,330|
|Prostate||Increasing by 1%||29,430|
|Kidney and renal||Stable||14,400|
|Oral cavity and pharynx||Stalled||10,030|
|Skin||Increasing by 1%||9,320|
|Thyroid||Increasing by 0.5%||2,060|
What is cancer and who can get it?
According to the ACS cancer is a group of diseases made up of abnormal cells with an uncontrolled growth pattern. Genetics do play a role in determining who might be at risk for cancer. However, equally important are lifestyle (external) factors, such as tobacco usage and body weight, and non-modifiable conditions (internal), such as genetics, hormones and immunity based factors. The ACS estimates about 87% of cancers strike those older than 50 years of age. Causes of cancers in children are still widely unknown. Men outweigh women in cancer rates by 41 to 38 out of 100 respectively.
Breast cancer, which largely affects women, is expected to claim over 41,000 lives in 2018. It is the second leading cause of death in women. Breast cancer rates are down 38% from 1989 – 2014 due to early detection, prevention and treatment.
How is it Breast Cancer Diagnosed?
Early detection is key to prompt remediation and recovery. Usually early detection starts with a breast self exam, gently feeling for any signs of lumps or abnormalities in each breast. Immediately see your physician or OB/GYN if you detect any abnormalities so they can follow up with a mammogram! But don’t panic as the majority of lumps are non-cancerous.
Women 40 years of age and older should have a mammogram every one to two years. Those younger than 40 with a history of family breast cancer may need to establish a mammography schedule to screen for potential breast cancer. A mammogram is an x-ray that administers a low dose of ionizing radiation to take a complete picture of the breast tissue. Specialists then exam the pictures to look for any felt or hidden lumps and suspicious specks. Specks are usually clusters of calcium deposits called microcalcifications. They can be cancerous, a fatty cell or perhaps even a cyst.
If the specialist determines there are abnormalities in your mammogram they will order additional tests to determine the nature of the lump of speck. These tests could be an MRI or Ultrasound. However, to definitely determine its state a biopsy will be performed. A biopsy is procedure where a cluster of cells is removed from the affected lump or speck and examined for possible cancer.
What if I Have Breast Cancer?
Treatment for breast cancer is constantly advancing and treatments vary from individual to individual. Before you commit to a treatment plan you may want to get a second set of tests and opinion from a different doctor and testing center to make sure you are truly facing breast cancer.
Once you are diagnosed with breast cancer, you will be categorized based on your severity, which will help dictate the type and nature of treatment recommended to you. These are called stages:
- Stage 0 – there is no evidence of cancer out side the initial tumor or speck
- Stage 1 – tumor is up to two centimeters and no lymph nodes are involved
- Stage 2 – tumor measures two to five centimeters and cancer has spread to the lymph nodes under the corresponding arm; cancer considered invasive
- Stage 3A – tumor is between two and five centimeters and cancer has spread to the lymph nodes under the corresponding arm and the lymph nodes around the breast bone; cancer can also spread to other axillary lymph nodes.
- Stage 3B – tumor can be any size and cancer has spread to axillary lymph nodes and to the nodes in the breast bone; cancer has spread to the skin of the breast (called inflammatory breast cancer).
- Stage 3C – There may be no sign of cancer in the breast or the tumor may be any size, and may have spread to the chest wall and/or skin of the breast; cancer cells present in lymph nodes above or below the collarbone and in axillary lymph nodes or near the breastbone; cancer may have spread to skin of the breast (inflammatory breast cancer).
Stage IIIC breast cancer may be operable or inoperable:In operable stage IIIC: cancer is found in 10 or more axillary lymph nodes, or is in lymph nodes below the collarbone, or is in axillary lymph nodes and lymph nodes near the breastbone.
In inoperable stage IIIC: cancer has spread to the lymph nodes above the collarbone.
- Stage 4 – cancer has spread beyond the breast, underarm and internal mammary lymph nodes to other parts of the body near to or distant from the breast – bones, brain, lungs or liver, and more than one part of the body may be involved (considered metastatic).
- Recurrent breast cancer – the disease has returned despite all initial treatment. (2)
Treatment options will vary depending on the stage of the breast cancer and the your general health. New clinical trials and treatment options are constantly evolving our care, working towards a possible cure in the not so distant future. For now there are a combination of chemical treatments (chemotherapy), radiation therapy (to target and kill any remaining cancer cells) and post-cancer treatment to help keep cancer from recurring while facilitating the growth of new healthy white blood cells.
You can also help keep yourself as healthy as possible by eating a clean healthy diet. Sugars and over-consumption of carbohydrates can lead to many health related diseases, including Type 2 Diabetes, Hypertension and Obesity. Studies conflict as whether cancer plays a large part in the propagation of cancer in the body. However, one thing is clear, sugar is not good for your body period!
Eating real whole foods that are organic and non-gmo and eliminating processed foods can help your body and brain in so many ways. This includes improving heart, brain and cellular health and reducing diabetic, auto-immune and obesity diseases. Research decide if eating a Ketogenic, Paleo or Mediterranean eating plan might work for your lifestyle. What you eat plays a large part in your ongoing health condition! Choose to eat the best plan possible.
What is Being Done to Combat Cancer?
The ACS, an organization two million strong, is spearheading efforts to research cures and treatments for these various cancers. They also offer support networks and groups where people can come together to share their experience and find help for their situation. Volunteers, local support groups, local organization employee challenges and various programs all work together to raise awareness, disseminate information and raise donations to help fund research for the eventual eradication of cancer. The ACS pledges to be there with the estimated 1.7 million new cancer patients in 2017 and their continuing support of 15.5 million cancer survivors to date until cancer is no more.
How Can I Show my Support?
Show your support for breast cancer awareness and a hope for a cure. There are many activities, such as walks and runs (Susan G. Kommen), to promote awareness, raise money and recognize those who are currently struggling with cancer or were lost to the disease. There are also several cancer foundations and organizations where you can donate. Wear pink. Dye your hair pink or pink streak it. Go pink to support breast cancer awareness month!
Events and Donations (popular):
Have you known or do you know someone battling cancer? Or maybe it is/was you? How is/was your or their struggle? What did you learn from your or their experience?
To your improved health…
- (1) American Cancer Society – Cancer Facts a& Figures 2018
- (2) Cancer Treatment Centers of America – Breast Cancer Stages