Breast Cancer Awareness – New Advancements, New Hope
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and we wanted to provide some facts and new information to our readers. This disease has impacted so many women and their families over the last few decades that we need to continue driving awareness about early detection, since that can mean the difference between life and death. With Breast Cancer being the most common cancer in the world (12.5% of all new annual cancer cases worldwide), our medical community has their work cut out for them. Let’s look at the data as of 2023.
Breast Cancer Statistics
- About 13% (about 1 in 8) of U.S. women are going to develop invasive breast cancer in the course of their life.
- In 2023, an estimated 297,790 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in U.S. women, along with 55,720 new cases of DCIS.
- In 2023, an estimated 2,800 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in men. A man’s lifetime risk of breast cancer is about 1 in 833.
- There are currently more than 4 million women with a history of breast cancer in the United States. This includes women currently being treated and women who have finished treatment.
- Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among U.S. women. About 30% of all newly diagnosed cancers in women each year are breast cancer.
This information is provided by Breastcancer.org.
Although these statistics are staggering, the good news is that Breast cancer incidence rates in the United States have decreased. The eighties and nineties saw a continual rise, but after the year 2000, the rates began to decrease. As a matter of fact, they dropped by 7% from 2002 to 2003 alone. Most recently there has been a slight increase of .5% per year, so it appears some major positive strides have been made, but there is more work to do.
Who is at Risk?
- If you have a first-degree relative (mother, sister, daughter) who has been diagnosed with breast cancer, your risk nearly doubles. Approximately 15% of women who get breast cancer have a family member diagnosed with it.
- If you carry certain genetic mutations, you have a strong potential to be diagnosed with breast cancer. Learn more here.
- As you age your chances increase, so it is essential that you speak with your doctor about your personal risk level so you can make sure to get screened as often as makes sense for you.
- Black women are more likely to die from breast cancer than women of any other racial or ethnic group. Experts believe that it’s partially because about 1 in 5 Black women is diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer, more than any other racial or ethnic group.
Essentially, we are all at risk to some degree (note the statistic showing the occurrence of breast cancer in males); however, if you are at a higher risk as noted above, you will most likely have an individualized screening plan from your doctor. For most other women, following the guidelines from the American Cancer Society for early detection is a good place to start.
How Can You Lower Your Risk?
Proper screening, mammograms, self-examinations, and regular checkups are a great start in early detection of breast cancer, but are there lifestyle choices you can make to reduce your risk? The following list is a good start!
- DON'T SMOKE - Women who smoke or inhale passive smoke may increase their risk of breast cancer by as much as 60 percent.
- LIMIT ALCOHOL - The general recommendation — based on research on the effect of alcohol on breast cancer risk — is to limit yourself to no more than one drink a day, as even small amounts increase risk.
- MAINTAIN A HEALTHY WEIGHT - If you need to lose weight, ask your doctor about healthy strategies to accomplish this. Reduce the number of calories you eat each day and slowly increase the amount of exercise.
- BE PHYSICALLY ACTIVE - Physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight, which helps prevent breast cancer. Most healthy adults should aim for at least 150 minutes (about 2 and a half hours) a week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity weekly, plus strength training at least twice a week.
- BREAST-FEED - Breast-feeding might play a role in breast cancer prevention. The longer you breast-feed, the greater the protective effect.
- LIMIT POSTMENOPAUSAL HORMONAL THERAPY - Talk with your doctor about the risks and benefits of hormone therapy. You might be able to manage your symptoms with nonhormonal therapies and medications. If you decide that the benefits of short-term hormone therapy outweigh the risks, use the lowest dose that works for you and continue to have your doctor monitor the length of time you're taking hormones.
These are only some of the ways you can reduce your risk for breast cancer. Limiting the amount of processed foods and sugars, while consuming organic foods, whole grains and foods rich in Vitamin D are greatly beneficial. Consider adopting a Mediterranean Diet, which has been proven to lower your risk for all types of cancer.
Hope for the Future
Because breast cancer is so pervasive, there is a constant flow of energy in research for a cure. The good news is that new treatments, drugs, AI, and diagnostics tools are being discovered, and are making a difference.
One example is a new robotics tool designed by a team at the University of Bristol in the UK. It is able to apply very specific forces over a range similar to forces used by human examiners and can detect lumps using sensor technology at larger depths than before. This could revolutionize how women monitor their breast health by giving them access to safe electronic CBEs (clinical breast examinations), located in easily accessible places, such as pharmacies and health centers, which provide accurate results.
Another hopeful discovery is a new class of cancer drugs called ADCs (Antibody Drug Conjugates). These drugs work by combining antibodies that can find cancer cells with very strong chemotherapy drugs. An ADC is like a smart bomb that knows how to home in on a target without causing very much collateral damage. Patients can often stay on ADCs for a long time, even years or decades, unlike regular chemotherapy, which can often only be given for a brief period because it’s too harsh on the body.
Just earlier this summer, The New York Times reports that At least nine ADCs have been approved by the F.D.A. in the past five years, including one granted approval early last year after researchers published a trial showing that the drug could increase survival by nearly 50 percent for a large percentage of patients with metastatic breast cancer. When the study’s principal investigator presented the findings at a large cancer conference in June 2022, the doctors and scientists in attendance gave her a standing ovation. The new breast cancer medicine is a game changer, not a one-off. Rather, it’s a natural result of a new scientific understanding that is altering the futures of patients with many types of cancer.
These are just a few examples of new, hopeful treatments and improved diagnostics for breast cancer. There are many others you can read about. A quick internet search will reveal a plethora of new studies, data, potential drugs, and other information that will help in the fight against breast cancer. There are many resources to learn more about breast cancer, make donations or discover ways to become involved and raise awareness in your community. Here are a few: