For years I thought of the color orange whenever thinking about the month of October. Pumpkins, leaves, candy corn. But now I see pink.
Earlier this week another friend of mine had her life intersect with breast cancer.
Statistically speaking, one out of eight women will experience invasive breast cancer during their lifetime. Think about that for a moment. Picture nine players on the field for a softball team. All smiles, ponytails, and focused on winning. Pick one, say the catcher. Maybe the third baseman. Odds are one of the players on the field will have their lives interrupted or least disrupted by breast cancer during their lifetime.
October is National Breast Cancer awareness month.
According to the American Cancer Association, more than 250,000 women in the US experienced invasive breast cancer in 2017 resulting in 40,000 cancer deaths. Additionally, the greatest rates of mortality due to breast cancer occur in minorities, with the highest rates for African American women.
The good news is the survival rate continues to improve as awareness and self-testing become more ingrained in daily lives. The sneaky thing about breast cancer is that it is considered painless cancer – one people do not generally find their body telling them something is wrong. Many cancers, as they take hold, begin to compromise or impact organs creating discomfort. Breast cancer, however, is a generally considered silent cancer – most times not discovered without either a clinical or self-examination. This alone makes breast cancer even more dangerous – allowing cancer to grow and expand in the body unchecked.
The lower rate of medical or self-exams appears to be the driver of higher rates of breast cancer incidence in minorities, according to medical professionals. Being as breast cancer is silent aggressor makes education and regular medical exams an important part of early detection and treatment for all women regardless of race, creed, color.
Surprisingly, family history is not necessarily a predictor of a woman getting breast cancer. With 90% of breast cancers being termed “spontaneous” or occurring without genetic markers, the incidence rate is more random than most would believe. With the exception of the aggressive BRCA1 gene (which carries a 50% predictor rate), which actress Angelina Joline both carries and elevated in the public’s awareness, the highest indicator of risk to women is age. Women under 40 years of age carry a 9% rate of experiencing breast cancer while women over 80 carry a 24% rate. Having a regular examination schedule becomes increasingly important in early detection when more options and treatments are possible.
At one time I didn’t know of anyone who experienced breast cancer. Now I know more people than the fingers on both hands. I also once thought of breast cancer as something spoken in hushed tones – but not anymore. The more we educate, the more we make early detection possible, the more lives we can save. The rate of mortality has dropped in the past few decades, but we’ve still a long way to go.
Think pink. Think breast cancer.