Breast Cancer: Together We Can Fight This Battle
By: Jessica Fama
Breast cancer is a type of cancer that develops in the breast cells and affects both women and men. It is the second most common cancer worldwide. Early detection is crucial for successful treatment. Breast Cancer Awareness Month is an annual international health campaign that takes place every October. Its intention is to increase awareness and raise funds for breast cancer research, prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and support services. During this month, individuals, organizations, and communities around the world come together to advance breast cancer awareness through various events, activities, and initiatives.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month started in the United States in 1985 as a week-long campaign, when the American Cancer Society and Imperial Chemical Industries partnered to promote mammography as the most effective weapon in the fight against breast cancer. Since then, the campaign has become a global phenomenon, with millions of people worldwide participating in various events and activities to support the cause. These efforts include wearing pink ribbons, hosting charity walks and runs, organizing educational seminars and workshops, and sharing stories of breast cancer survivors and fighters. The goal of Breast Cancer Awareness Month is to empower individuals to take charge of their breast health, encourage early detection, and ultimately save lives.
People show their support during this month by wearing pink or red, and wearing the pink ribbon. The ribbon worn for support started in 1992 and was almost a peach color instead of the now well-known pink ribbon. According to breastcancer.org “a grassroots effort by Charlotte Haley began with peach-colored loops. At the same time, Alexandra Penney, Self Magazine’s Editor-in-Chief, partnered with Evelyn Lauder, Estée Lauder’s Senior Corporate Vice President, and a breast cancer survivor, distributed pink ribbons after the magazine’s second annual Breast Cancer Awareness Month issue. Because of the incredible reach of the magazine and Estée Lauder brand, pink triumphed over peach, and is now used by breast cancer organizations around the world.”
In 1982, what started as $200 and a shoebox full of potential donor names, the Susan G. Komen organization was formed and began a global movement. Nancy G. Brinker promised her dying sister, Susan in 1980, that she would do whatever she could to end breast cancer forever. Since then, over 3.6 billion dollars has been invested in research, community outreach, and programs in more than 60 countries. Since 1989 their efforts have reduced breast cancer deaths by 43%. According to Komen.org and breastcancer.org:
- 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. (That’s one person every 2 minutes in the United States.)
- Two most common risk factors of breast cancer are being born female and getting older.
- In 2022, it is estimated that nearly 44,000 people in the United States will die from breast cancer.
- Breast cancer is the most diagnosed cancer among American women.• Black women are most likely to die from breast cancer than women of any other racial or ethic group. Experts believe that it’s partially because 1 in 5 black women is diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer.
- About 85% of breast cancers occur in women who have no family history of breast cancer. This occurs due to genetic mutations that happen because of the aging process and life in general, rather than inherited mutations.
There are numerous forms of breast cancer, according to American Cancer Society, a breast cancer’s type is determined by the specific cells in the breast that become cancer. Most breast cancers are carcinomas, which are tumors that line organs and tissues throughout the body. More specifically, when formed in the breast, they are known as adenocarcinoma, which starts in the milk ducts. Types of this also differ whether the cancer has spread or not. In situ is a pre-cancer that starts in the milk duct and has not grown to the rest of the breast tissue. Invasive or infiltrating describes any type that has spread into the breast tissue.
Triple-negative breast cancer is very aggressive and invasive and happens when cells don’t have estrogen or progesterone receptors or don’t have enough HER2 protein. This accounts for 15% of all breast cancers and it is very difficult to treat. Another aggressive invasive breast cancer is inflammatory, which cancer cells block the lymph vessels in the skin, and account for 1%-5% of all breast cancers.
Less common breast cancer types are Paget disease, which starts in the breast ducts and spreads to the skin of the nipple and then to the areola. Angiosarcoma is also rare, making up for less than 1% of all breast cancers and start in cells that line blood vessels or lymph vessels. Most are benign, but phyllodes tumors are rare breast tumors that develop in the connective tissue or stroma of the breast.
There are always advancements in technology and what science can do for us. The American Association for Cancer Research has stated that scientists have found a new targeted therapy that extends progression-free survival in people with metastatic hormone receptor-positive breast cancer who had progressed after previous endocrine therapy.
It’s important to know yourself and know your own normal. Women should be screened every other year starting at age 40, a change from the previous recommendation of 50. If you see or feel something off, you should see your doctor right away. Some ways you can check yourself include touching your breasts and feeling for anything new or unusual. Make sure to check all parts of your breasts from your armpits to your collarbone. Look and see if there are any changes that seem out of place. Changes you may notice might be a lump or swelling, dimpling of the skin, a change in color or inflammation, if a nipple has inverted or over extended, a rash or crusting around the nipple, any discharge, or changes in the size or shape of your breast.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month is a crucial time for people to raise awareness about breast cancer and support those who have been affected by this disease. It is a time to encourage women to get screened regularly, educate yourself and others, and help to raise funds to support research. We can make a difference in the fight against breast cancer and improve the lives of millions of people around the world. Let’s continue to support one another and spread awareness about this important cause. For more information check out cancer.org, komen.org, breastcancer.org, breastcancernow.org, or aacr.org and if you can donate, do so to one of these amazing organizations trying to help end breast cancer forever. Together, we can do anything.