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Today’s Battle with Breast Cancer and The Benefits of Breast Cancer Awareness Month

breast cancer, pink ribbon

According to BreastCancer.org, one in eight women, or about 12 percent of the female population, will eventually be diagnosed with breast cancer. It is true that the incident rate of cancer has decreased over the past two decades, and early diagnosis and treatment have helped reduce the death toll associated with breast cancer. Even with this, however, it is still expected there will be over 250,000 new cases diagnosed in 2017, along with an astonishing 40,000 plus deaths related to breast cancer. [1]

With October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it is an ideal time to discover more about this deadly disease that devastates the lives of so many. In addition to learning about breast cancer, you should consider what you could do to help spread awareness and fight the disease. With proper education, you can do a lot.

Breast Cancer Today

After skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer affliction diagnosed in women in the US. Breast cancer does occur in men, although at about one tenth the rate as compared to women. [2] Unfortunately, risks of breast cancer seem to increase with age. According to The Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program of the National Cancer Institute, women are diagnosed with breast cancer at approximately the following rates:
• 0.44% (1 in 227) by age 30
• 1.47% (1 in 68) by age 40
• 2.38% (1 in 42) by age 50
• 3.56% (1 in 28) by age 60
• 3.82% (1 in 26) by age 70

Greater personal risk is tied to additional factors like:

• Dense breast tissue
• Body weight
• Ethnicity
• Personal health
• Family history
• BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutations [3]

Building awareness is one of the most effective ways to decrease deaths related to breast cancer. When women are aware of their family history, when they conduct frequent mammograms in accordance with doctor recommendations, and when they undergo genetic testing to check for BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations [4], they have the best opportunity for early diagnosis and life-saving treatment.

The risk of developing breast cancer can be reduced through proper education and preventive measures like:

• Quitting smoking and avoiding other known carcinogens
• Following healthy habits regarding diet and exercise
• Taking medications to treat precancerous conditions or prevent the onset of certain cancers
• Electing for risk-reducing surgeries [5]

Treatment Options and Developments

There are two chief options for treating breast cancer once it has been diagnosed: local treatments like surgery and radiation; and systemic treatments such as chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and targeted therapy.
Surgery seeks to remove as much breast cancer as possible through lumpectomy (tumor removal), mastectomy (breast removal), and/or lymphadenectomy (lymph node removal). Radiation therapy is often prescribed in concert with other treatments. This involves the use of high-energy rays to pinpoint a specific area in an effort to eliminate any cancer cells left behind by other treatments.
Chemotherapy drugs may be administered orally or intravenously to target cancer cells throughout the body. Despite side effects, chemotherapy is one of the most effective treatments for eliminating breast cancer and preventing the formation of new tumors. Hormone therapies often follow other treatments to reduce the risk of recurrence, while targeted drugs may stop the growth of certain types of cancer cells even in cases where chemotherapy is ineffective. [6]
Some targeted therapies showing promise are PARP inhibitors. These are primarily useful against cancers caused by BRCA mutations. Another promising therapy involves anti-angiogenesis drugs that stop the development of blood vessels needed to feed growing tumors. [7]

Benefits of Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Awareness campaigns for Breast Cancer Awareness Month have yielded promising results, according to a six-year study by the peer-reviewed journal BMC Cancer. The study found that online activity, like Google searches related to breast cancer, increased significantly during the month of October. [8] In addition, broader awareness may be a contributing factor in fundraising efforts aimed at cancer education, helping patients, and funding new research. The National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc. has reported a rise in funding almost every year for nearly a decade. [9]
Besides donating money to fight breast cancer, people can find myriad ways to help the cause, including hosting fundraisers; learning about breast health in order to pass along valuable information; and utilizing social media to educate family members, friends, and other contacts. [10]

Making Strides Against Breast Cancer

Events such as “Making Strides Against Breast Cancer” by The American Cancer Society, are also a good way to raise both awareness and funds for early detection, support services, and research. Survivors, caregivers, and those whose lives have been touched by breast cancer can volunteer, raise money, and participate in charity walks to support the cancer community. [11]

What More Can You Do?

Raising awareness, making personal financial contributions, and helping fundraise on behalf of breast cancer research and support services are all great ways to get involved. There is also another way, if helping prevent and some day eradicate breast cancer is your passion: you can pursue a career in a field like nursing or health administration. [12]
This type of education can put you at the forefront of advances in the fight against cancer, or simply allow you to ease the suffering of patients undergoing treatments. A career in health care is ideal for anyone who is fervently committed to finding the cure, and helping cancer patients along the way.

Learn More

Providing medical services takes skill. Serving more than half of the U.S. population takes specialized expertise. That’s where the online Master of Science in Nursing Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner degree makes its mark. With this degree, you can learn to treat women’s specialized health needs across their life cycle.

Recommended Readings

10 Tips for Nurses to Effectively Communicate with Elderly Patients
Understanding Clinical Nurse Specialists
Patient Education and Chronic Pain

Sources:

[1] Breastcancer.org
[2] National Cancer Institute – Breast Cancer—Patient Version
[3] National Cancer Institute – Breast Cancer Risk in American Women
[4] National Cancer Institute – BRCA1 and BRCA2: Cancer Risk and Genetic Testing
[5] National Cancer Institute – Breast Cancer Prevention (PDQ®)–Patient Version
[6] American Cancer Society – Treating Breast Cancer
[7] American Cancer Society – What’s New in Breast Cancer Research?
[8] BMC Cancer
[9] National Breast Cancer Foundation – Financial Reports
[10] National Breast Cancer Foundation – Breast Cancer Awareness Month
[11] American Cancer Society – Making Strides Against Breast Cancer
[12] Online MSN – Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner