October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and as a physician who’s cared for women for over 30 years the simple fact remains that scarcely a month goes by when someone I’ve known for many years becomes newly diagnosed.
While breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among women there is still much that can be done to detect this disease in its earliest stages and survive this cancer.
In 2015 it is expected that 230 thousand new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. Another 60 thousand women will be diagnosed with an early non-invasive form of the disease. Unfortunately 40,000 women will succumb to this disease.
Death rates from breast cancer have been declining since about 1989 with the largest decreases in women under the age of 50. The reasons for the decrease are increased awareness, early screening and improved treatments. The bottom line is that according to the American Cancer Society the breast cancer death rate is down 34% since 1990! Breast cancer does not need to be a death sentence. But you need to be your biggest advocate.
The message for today is early detection.
For most women breast cancer screening—mammography—should begin at age 40. However, there are other women who are at high risk and who should begin screening sometime between ages 30 and 40. These include women with a family history of breast cancer, known carriers of certain genetic mutations and have had radiation to their chest between the ages of 10 and 30 years of age.
If you have not been screened talk to your physician about getting screened and arrange for it! You don’t just owe it to yourself—you owe it to the ones you love and love you back. We are all interconnected. Whether you are a mother, a daughter, a wife, a partner, a friend, a co-worker remember that others depend on you. So don’t do it just for yourself. Do it for all of those others that mean so much to you.