breast cancer awareness

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month

By JAMES D. LOMAX
Posted 10/7/20

About one in eight U.S. women (about 12 percent) will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. It is expected that, in 2020, there will be 276,000+ new cases of invasive breast …

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breast cancer awareness

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month

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About one in eight U.S. women (about 12 percent) will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. It is expected that, in 2020, there will be 276,000+ new cases of invasive breast cancer, along with 48,500+ new cases of non-invasive (in situ) breast cancer.

This year also continues the emphasis of breast cancer incidence in U.S. men. Even though rare, it does vary by race and ethnicity. Black men have the highest breast cancer incidence overall; Hispanic men have the lowest rate.

National Breast Cancer Awareness Month is part of an annual international campaign organized by charities every October to increase awareness of the disease and to raise funds for research into its cause, prevention, diagnosis, treatment and cure. The emphasis in past years has been to promote mammography as an important screening test.

In 1991, the Susan G. Komen Foundation had handed out pink ribbons to participants in its New York City race for breast cancer survivors. In 1993 Evelyn Lauder, Senior Corporate Vice President of the Estée Lauder Companies, founded the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and established the pink ribbon as its symbol.

A variety of events around the world are organized in October including walks and runs, and the pink illumination of landmark buildings.

There is good news that improves the accuracy of screening, diagnosis, and treatment of breast cancer:

Research is being done about the sparing of regional lymph nodes that have been traditionally removed with surgery to minimize post-operative soft tissue swelling.

Advances in genomic testing can minimize chemotherapy exposure in patients with certain estrogen receptor patterns, helping to minimize the adverse effects of some chemotherapy agents. For years, many patients got chemotherapy as a part of their breast cancer treatment. In July 2018, a study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine that showed traditional chemotherapy wouldn’t benefit up to 85 percent of patients over age 50 whose breast cancer was HR+ or HER- and had not spread to any lymph nodes. Many of these patients are now treated exclusively with estrogen-blocking agents that have fewer side effects and improved outcomes.

A number of genetic mutations—such as BRCA1 and BRCA2—are already known to increase a person’s risk of developing certain cancers, including breast cancer. But now, next-generation gene sequencing techniques are helping researchers identify other hereditary cancer syndromes that can put people at risk.

There is research in a new drug combination that makes estrogen-blocking agents more effective.

Because of our current COVID-19 pandemic, many people are concerned about accessing the health care system due to fear of potential exposure to coronavirus and that their concerns would not be a priority for doctors and hospitals. Breast screening is an example of this. For women or men at risk for breast cancer, it is essential to follow up with your primary care physician as you did prior to this pandemic. Early diagnosis is still key to ensuring the best outcome from this type of cancer.

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