October is the month of pink, primarily dedicated to Breast Cancer Awareness Month and its signature color. This month is essential and utilized to educate women on the importance of breast checks and the signs to look for on the breasts. Did you know that breast cancer affects 1 in every eight women?2. This cancer can also affect males but the rate of incidence and prevalence is low compared to women. On a molecular level, most simply, cancer cells are abnormally proliferating and growing nonstop. The growth of the cancer cells jeopardizes the normal functions of the body. Often we hear the terms benign and malignant to describe whether the type of cancer is severe or have not reached other organs in the body. A benign tumor does not travel to a distant site in the body.
Put merely, benign cancer has not penetrated the basement membrane allowing the release to other parts of the body, but malignant cancer does. The ability of malignant cancer cells to travel to a distant site is referred to as metastasis and this is what we see in breast cancer. Common sites of metastasis are the lymph nodes, bones, liver, lungs, and brain. The spread of cancer to other organs contributes to the severity and malfunction of different organ systems and their tissue.
With current advancements in treatment and on-going research, though there have been improvements, there are still an estimated 42,170 women who will die of breast cancer this year 2. All the more reason to promote awareness about what makes women at risk for breast cancer. Many literature in the past have suggested that as women get older, the risk for breast cancer increases. Current gold standard recommendations suggest an annual mammogram, after the age of 50 1,2 . This has been proven to help detect any abnormalities in the breast tissue early in the disease process, leading to a better prognosis. On the other hand, women who have a history of breast cancer in their family have double the risk, and guidelines suggest annual mammograms starting at 301,2. Women should not wait until October to gain more awareness of what it means to screen for breast cancer or what breast cancer is. Breast care should be part of routine. Some ways women can obtain more information are:
- Ask your healthcare professional about how to appropriately perform self breast examinations at home
- Schedule a mammogram and follow up annually
- Reference https://www.cancer.org/ for current updates on research
- How Common Is Breast Cancer?: Breast Cancer Statistics. (n.d.). Retrieved October 09, 2020, from https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer/about/how-common-is-breast-cancer.html
2. “Breast Cancer Risk Factors You Cannot Change: Genetic Risk Factors.” American Cancer Society, http://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer/risk-and-prevention/breast-cancer-risk-factors-you-cannot-change.html.