During October, celebrated as breast cancer awareness month, you’ll see many people with pink ribbons pinned to their clothing. For 31 days, breast cancer awareness is in the spotlight, but the disease continues to impact lives throughout the rest of the year.
Approximately 13% of women¹ in the United States will develop invasive breast cancer at some point in their lives. The disease puts a serious strain on the patient’s mind, body, and finances through the costs of treatment and care. It also affects the lives of their loved ones.
Breast cancer awareness plays a significant role in combating the disease through early detection and raising funds for further research and breast cancer clinical trials.
Let’s begin your breast cancer awareness journey here. Whether you’re recently diagnosed or supporting a loved one with the disease—you’re not alone.
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Considering that one in every eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime, there’s a high chance that you know someone who has been impacted by the disease.
Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women
In 2021, approximately 30% of cancer diagnoses in women are breast cancer
Women with breast cancer experience the second-highest death rate compared to other cancers (after lung cancer)
Men are not exempt—with one in every 833 men being at risk of breast cancer in their lifetime
Accounting for 12% of all new cancer cases globally, breast cancer has become the most common cancer worldwide
Breast cancer is caused by mutations and irregular cell growth in the breasts, either forming in the lobules or the milk ducts. If uncontrolled, cancer cells can invade other healthy tissue and travel to other areas of the body, such as the lymph nodes.
Breast cancer is usually identified by a new lump in or near the breast or even under the arm. There may also be changes to the skin and the breast’s size, shape, and appearance.
Early detection is key to reducing the severity of breast cancer. Regular mammograms and self-examinations are essential to catch any sign of breast cancer in the early stages.
Breast cancer can target anyone, unlike other cancers that can be triggered by external factors and lifestyle, such as smoking contributing to lung cancer. The most significant risk factors for breast cancer are age and sex.
Essentially, the older women get, the more at risk they are of getting breast cancer.
Research shows that there are also nuanced risks based on race and ethnicity. For example, Black women have a higher chance of dying of breast cancer than white women. Genetics also introduces a risk factor. Consider that the risk of breast cancer nearly doubles if the patient has a first-degree relative who has been diagnosed.
Genetic testing may help doctors predict the person's cancer risk, diagnose cancer, and even help in treatment.
In some cases where there is a positive family history, it is important to consider genetic testing, particularly for tumor suppressor genes. Mutations in some of these genes, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2, can increase the risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer.
Breast cancer is a public health problem that benefits greatly from increased attention.
On the one hand, fundraisers and federal resources allocated to research can work wonders in medical developments. On the other hand, breast cancer awareness in the community increases the chance of early detection.
When awareness is piqued, the patient is prioritized, and the severity of the disease is dramatically reduced. Great companies, organizations, and foundations work tirelessly to research and fund breast cancer awareness, putting the patient at the heart of the mission.
The National Breast Cancer Coalition describes breast cancer as a “political issue.” Congress and state legislatures largely determine funding for breast cancer research, drug approval, insurance regulation, and more related medical activities. Breast cancer research makes up one of the largest research areas¹ for the federal National Cancer Institute funding.
Some charities are contributing to the billion-dollar sector, raising both awareness and funds. Here are three of the most effective breast cancer charity foundations in the United States.
With a focus on funding and research, the American Cancer Society is the oldest and largest cancer organization in the United States.
Their focus extends beyond breast cancer and supports all types of cancer by funding billions in research. Their contribution has helped the development of breakthroughs, changing the lives of millions.
Breastcancer.org has one important mission—to provide information and support to those impacted by breast cancer.
The organization offers the world’s largest breast cancer peer community and increases awareness, and empowers people to understand the disease.
Breast cancer is a complex disease, and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF) is fully dedicated to financially supporting research.
Their efforts have contributed to completing the decade-long TAILORx trial that avoids the use of chemotherapy for early-stage breast cancer patients.
If you or a loved one is battling breast cancer, you can find comfort knowing that you are far from being alone in the experience.
Several breast cancer support groups are dedicated to raising awareness and providing a safe space of support and knowledge.
The Cancer Support Community believes that everyone’s cancer experience is unique and that your support should be, too. Their support structure pivots around education, resources, and community.
There are also digital avenues to accommodate individuals who are unable to attend in-person events and groups.
Breast cancer is most prevalent in women more than 60-years-old, with only 0.49% of women between 30 and 40 years² being diagnosed. The journey differs for younger patients who are in a different life stage.
Instapeer is a mobile app that helps create connections between young cancer patients, survivors, and caregivers.
The National Breast Cancer Foundation strives to help and inspire those affected by breast cancer.
Through early detection and diagnosis, support during treatment—and beyond—plus empowerment through education, the foundation offers a safe and informative space.
One of the most challenging aspects of dealing with cancer is the high cost of treatment and care. The American Cancer Society addresses this struggle by providing support and resources to overcome these practical difficulties through interactive tools and support groups.
It’s a sad reality that breast cancer can lead to death, leaving many people grief-stricken by the loss. GriefShare is a friendly, caring group that supports those grieving, offering comfort and healing in difficult times.
“A heightened awareness of the disease has unquestionably led to a greater number of women being screened for breast cancer. Patients are experiencing better outcomes as a result of early diagnosis, state-of-the-art treatment options, and less extensive surgery.”
Catherine Tuite, MD, Section Chief of Breast Radiology and Associate Professor of Diagnostic Imaging at Fox Chase Cancer Center.
There’s no denying that awareness, education, and support can have a powerful impact on the lives of those diagnosed with breast cancer. One of the most iconic campaigns is dedicating the month of October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
The annual campaign is embraced by businesses, organizations, charities, and individuals worldwide with the shared goal of increasing awareness of the disease. Throughout October, there are various events, meet-ups, and fundraisers.
Several other campaigns happen across the United States throughout the year. Some offer a fun form of education and awareness, such as the Rose Regatta, an annual Dragon Boat Festival. Others focus on inspiring and uniting people globally, such as the Estée Lauder Companies Breast Cancer Campaign, which has raised more than $99 million to support medical research.
Many resources are available to women diagnosed with breast cancer, and several organizations are dedicated to breast cancer awareness and care.
The best thing you can do to improve the outlook of any breast cancer diagnosis is to start monthly self-exams and make sure you attend your annual mammogram appointments. A yearly MRI and genetic testing may make sense for women with a family history of the disease, but make sure to discuss these options with your doctor.
Remember, the survival rate is over 90% for women with early detection.
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