October recognized as Breast Cancer awareness month

 Courtesy Photos/The Bison

 Zoe Charles

News Editor 

October is National Breast Cancer awareness month. As per its name, Breast Cancer is cancer affecting one or more areas within the breast.

According to Cancer.org, “most breast cancers begin in the ducts that carry milk to the nipple (ductal cancers), [however] [s]ome start in the glands that make breast milk (lobular cancers). [In addition to these], [t]here are also other types of breast cancer that are less common like phyllodes tumor and angiosarcoma. A small number of cancers start in other tissues in the breast. These cancers are called sarcomas and lymphomas and are not really thought of as breast cancers.”

Breast cancer is very common throughout the female population with NationalBreastCancer.org reporting that, “1 in 8 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime [. . .] [making] Breast cancer the most common cancer in American women, aside from skin cancers. It is estimated that in 2020, approximately 30% of all new women cancer diagnoses will be breast cancer.”

According to NationalBreastCancer.org, “in 2020, an estimated 276,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women in the U.S. as well as 48,530 new cases of non-invasive (in situ) breast cancer.”

While these numbers are high, it is also important to note that according to NationalBreastCancer.org, “64% of breast cancer cases are diagnosed at a localized stage (there is no sign that the cancer has spread outside of the breast), for which the five-year survival rate is 99%” and that “[t]here are over 3.5 million breast cancer survivors in the United States.”

In addition to the statistics regarding the commonalities of breast cancer in women, it is also important to note that it affects many women on a psychological level seeing as that breasts are often associated with femininity and desirability.

According to Simmons.edu, “though people respond differently, patients who receive a cancer diagnosis often experience a number of common emotions, including various levels of stress, anxiety, and fear related to uncertainty about what the future holds and self-image.”

Simmons.edu also reported that, “The link between physical and psychological health, particularly as it pertains to breast cancer, is well documented.”

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), “mortality rates were found to be nearly ‘26 times higher in patients with depressive symptoms and 39 times higher in patients who had been diagnosed with major depression.’ Additionally, a ‘decrease in depression symptoms’ was associated with longer survival in patients with metastatic breast cancer.’”

While Breast Cancer is often stigmatized as being a “woman’s issue” the truth remains that, while rare, men can also be diagnosed with breast cancer.

According to NationalBreastCancer.org, “in 2020, an estimated 2,620 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year in the U.S. and approximately 520 will die.”

This number is much lower than the estimated “42,170 women [that] will die from breast cancer in the U.S.” this year according to the same source.

According to NationalBreastCancer.org, “Male breast cancer can exhibit the same symptoms as breast cancer in women, including a lump. Anyone who notices anything unusual about their breasts, whether male or female, should contact their physician immediately.”

However, NationalBreastCancer.org also states that, “If you find a lump, schedule an appointment with your doctor, but don’t panic — 8 out of 10 lumps are not cancerous.”

 When it comes to detecting breast cancer, especially among young adults, self-conducted breast exams are of the utmost importance.

According to NationalBreastCancer.org, “John Hopkins Medical Center states, ‘Adult women of all ages are encouraged to perform breast self-exams at least once a month [. . .] [f]orty percent of diagnosed breast cancers are detected by women who feel a lump, so establishing a regular breast self-exam is very important.’”

In addition to self-exams, mammograms are often used to detect signs of Breast Cancer. Mammograms can detect the cancer even without the presence of a lump.

According to Cancer.org, “Women who are at high risk for breast cancer based on certain factors should get a breast MRI and a mammogram every year, typically starting at age 30. Women between 40 and 44 have the option to start screening with a mammogram every year. Women 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year.”

According to 13 WHAM, a local branch of ABC News, in light of Covid-19, “Breast cancer screenings are down 25 percent from a year ago.” The article continued that “[a]t first, women had no choice. Mammography facilities shut down at the start of the pandemic. But they’re open now, and doctors warn the risk of not going is far too great.”

Mammograms are often covered by health insurance, however many facilities offer free and/or discounted mammograms if needed.

For more information on how to conduct a self-exam visit https://www.nationalbreastcancer.org/breast-self-exam 

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