While we use October to display pink ribbons and highlight breast cancer awareness in the U.S., those conversations should never be reserved for a particular month of the year. The Susan B. Komen Foundation estimates that by the end of 2020, in the U.S. there will be 276,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer. Add to that approximately 50,000 new cases of non-invasive breast cancer and 42,170 breast cancer deaths and it’s a reason to pay rapt attention.
It cannot be stressed enough how mammograms figure prominently in helping to lower some of these numbers via early detection, since in the big scheme of things this uncomfortable but necessary ounce of prevention enables the medical community to save lives. Although men can get breast cancer, it is most common in older women. Other factors that figure prominently are (1) if you have changes in breast cancer-related genes (BRCA1 or BRCA2) (2) having started your period before age 12 or starting menopause after age 55, (3) never having given birth or being older when your first child is born, (4) having taken birth control pills or hormones during menopause for more than five years, (5) a family history of breast cancer, and (6) being overweight, especially after menopause.
Bearing the statistic of 1 in 8 women being diagnosed with it during their lives, breast cancer is the second most prevalent cause of death in women. While it can’t be prevented, the good news is that most women can survive breast cancer if found and treated early. As I mentioned, the risk of breast cancer goes up with age.
I dedicate this blog post to all those who have been touched by breast cancer in their lives, including those loved ones who supported friends and family members through this ordeal. From the hundreds of women I have had the privilege of helping, I have drawn inspiration from their courageous journeys as well as their resolve to fight breast cancer and come out on top.
For the past 18 years I have been an active participant in Marin County’s Stepping Out: To Celebrate Life, our area’s biggest breast cancer fundraiser, which just took place a few days ago. Celebrating a 25-year history, this year’s event was, of course, held virtually. It included a silent auction, live auction, and a virtual gala, and I am honored each year to escort my patients who are breast cancer survivor models to and from the stage.. Stepping Out supports people facing breast cancer by direct funding and via programs that address the challenges of underserved people undergoing diagnoses, treatment, and recovery from breast cancer.
It’s important to remember that the advances made in breast cancer surgeries are fairly new, historically speaking. Some of my older clients recall when their mothers, having gone through this surgery, wore prosthetic bras under their clothing the rest of their lives. Today, all insurance plans include breast reconstruction surgery because the American Society of Plastic Surgery fought hard to get it covered. I believe breast reconstruction can help women feel “whole” again and will cover this topic in my next blog.
If there was one thing I would want you to glean from this post, it would be to get a mammogram scheduled as advised by your doctor. There is never enough precaution that can be taken than to discover breast anomalies early. For more information about breast cancer, go to cancer.org.
Beautifully yours —