DocMJ Goes Pink for Breast Cancer Awareness
Breast Cancer Awareness Month is an annual educational and awareness campaign. It provides acknowledgment, support, and free community resources for women and men.
In 2022, the campaign message from the National Breast Cancer Foundation is “Together We Rise.” And it is an inspirational message that reaches every patient and family member of those diagnosed with breast cancer. The foundation is one of many non-profit organizations that will be advocating for cancer patients and fundraising to increase clinical research for the prevention and treatment of breast cancer.
How Many Americans Are Living with Breast Cancer?
According to recent statistics from Breastcancer.org, 3.8 million women in the United States (as of January 2022) were diagnosed. And the data included patients who were previously diagnosed and women who are currently undergoing treatment.
Breast cancer represents approximately 30% of diagnoses of all new cancer cases discovered annually. In 2021, the condition became the most common cancer diagnosed worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Common Risk Factors for Breast Cancer
Race and heredity may increase your risk factors. Recent studies reveal that black women under forty-five (45) years have the highest diagnosis rate. And black women also have the highest mortality rate after being diagnosed with breast cancer. Women of Asian, Hispanic, and Native-American descent have lower diagnosis rates.
Research has revealed that a woman’s risk of developing cancer almost doubles if she has a close female relative (grandmother, sister, or mother) diagnosed. Because 80% of women diagnosed with breast cancer have a relative who developed the same condition, also in some cases, women with a family history of ovarian cancer may also be at risk.
Health and Lifestyle Factors That Can Increase Your Risks
Some lifestyle and other health factors may also increase your risk of developing breast cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Approximately 40% of cancer diagnoses can be attributed to lifestyle factors.
Your risks may be higher if you:
- Are not regularly physically active.
- Currently take hormones, including birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for estrogen and progesterone.
- Are receiving fertility treatments.
- Have become pregnant for the first time over the age of thirty years.
- Experienced multiple miscarriages.
- Have given birth but have never engaged in breastfeeding your child.
- Regularly consume alcohol (which creates estrogen compounds when metabolized).
- Struggle with healthy weight management or obesity after menopause.
Some risk factors that contribute to the development of breast cancer are not within our control. And they may include pre-existing health conditions:
- Natural aging.
- Dense breast tissue.
- Genetic mutations and abnormalities.
- Exposure to previous radiation therapies.
- Some prescription medications include diethylstilbestrol (DES), serotonin reuptake inhibitors such as fluoxetine and paroxetine, heartburn medications like Zantac, hypertension medications like losartan and valsartan, proton pump inhibitors, and more.
The best way to protect your health is to conduct regular self-examinations and prioritize annual screenings. Early detection is key to saving lives for women and men who develop breast cancer.
Why Regular Self-Examination Matters
Regular self-examination is the first step toward prevention. Breast cancer commonly develops in the upper quadrant area of the breast for women and around the nipple area for men. However, self-examination does not ensure early detection because there may be no classic “lump” to detect, even when cancer is present.
Depending on breast density and size, it may be difficult to feel with a manual examination. This type of cancer can also develop in other areas, including the breastbone, armpit, and collarbone areas.
Traditionally we have been informed to look for a lump similar to a tumor. But thanks to significant research findings, we now know that breast cancer may also present as a thickening of tissue in a specific area. Which can occur before a mass or lump can be detected. This is why annual mammograms are essential for early detection, where radiological scanning can detect changes in tissue density in the earliest stages of development.
Detecting breast cancer before the development of a mass or lump is key. That allows for more treatment options and higher success rates for remission. And the average five (5) year survival rate for women with non-metastatic invasive breast cancer is 90%. The average ten (10) year survival rate for women with non-metastatic diagnoses is 84%. 
What is the Average Age of Diagnosis?
While breast cancer can be diagnosed in women and men, it more commonly occurs among women over fifty years. The median or average age of diagnosis for women is sixty-two (62) years.
However, that doesn’t mean that women should wait until they are over sixty to get screened annually. While occurrences among women younger than forty-five (45) years are rare, it can occur. The current recommendation is an annual mammogram for women over forty.
Women with a family history should discuss a prevention plan with their primary care provider. If many close female family members have developed breast cancer, you may choose to get a mammogram every year after the age of thirty (30).
Should Men Get Checked Annually for Breast Cancer?
Most of the education and research into breast cancer is focused on women. That is because 99 out of every 100 breast cancer diagnoses are determined for female patients. But every year, more than 2,700 American men are diagnosed with breast cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.
The three most common types of diagnoses for men are:
- Invasive ductal carcinoma
- Invasive lobular carcinoma
- Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS)
Approximately 1 in 833 men will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. Men who have a mutation in the BRCA2 gene have an increased risk. And most are estrogen receptor (ER) positive in male diagnoses.
What Are the Common Symptoms for Men?
Statistically, over 500 men in the United States die from breast cancer yearly. And more education and awareness are needed for early intervention. Because it is a rare occurrence in men, symptoms are not always attributed to the condition by the patient or primary care providers.
Men should be aware of the potential warning signs. Those symptoms can include:
- Changes in shape to the nipple area or breast area include redness, dryness, scaling, or dimpling of the nipple (indentation).
- Discharge from the nipple.
- A lump or thickened area of breast tissue that may be painless.
Treatment for men and women is the same. Anti-hormonal drugs like tamoxifen and chemotherapy are common. Recent research has determined that the triggers in men may be different than in women. And new treatment options for men may be required.
One of the challenges facing breast cancer research for men is the lack of funding. Because the instances of male breast cancer are rare, there are fewer clinical trials for men.
What Can You Do to Show Your Support?
If you know someone who has breast cancer or has lost a loved one, the National Breast Cancer Foundation has placed a “Wall of Support” online. You can leave a message in Memorium or offer an inspirational word of encouragement and hope to patients currently diagnosed with breast cancer.
Also the National Breast Cancer Foundation has also welcomed patients and caregivers to share their stories. You can submit your story to the NBCF with a picture and then follow the foundation on their social media channels. The foundation will be sharing stories from patients and family members. Learn more on the NBCF “Stories of Hope” page.
Many organizations in the United States will share educational information and awareness about breast cancer. And many have a full calendar of events scheduled for October where patients and family members can attend in person and connect with their local communities.
- The National Breastcancer Foundation
- The American Cancer Society
- The Breast Cancer Research Foundation
- Living Beyond Breast Cancer
- Susan G. Komen Foundation
- Young Survival Coalition
Non-profits accept donations from the public to advance research into prevention and effective treatments for patients. Because research matters so much, you can show your support by donating during breast cancer awareness month.
Many charities offer merchandise, with proceeds allocated to research. You can host a fundraiser and “wear pink” to increase awareness in October to support organizations on the front line for patients.
How-To Find Local Events
Looking for other local events? Check your state’s Department of Health (DOH) website for more information. Many states are providing community events and free educational webinars for patients and caregivers.
Watch for more articles and resources this month as DocMJ goes pink in support of patients and caregivers this month.
 Source Web 2022: cancer.net
Aaron Bloom serves as the CEO, overseeing the mission and growth of DocMJ and Medwell Health and Wellness Centers. Aaron’s passion for improving patients’ lives comes from his background in health care. For more than 20 years, Aaron owned, operated, and represented traditional healthcare organizations. This experience created a passion for finding improved ways to relieve suffering. His goal as CEO is to work daily to relieve all patients who seek better health and wellness through the medicinal benefits of medical cannabis and evidence-based alternative medicines.