I think you would have to be living in a cave not to know that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM) in the USA. Second only to skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women.
The American Cancer Society's estimates for breast cancer in the United States for 2014 are:
- About 232,670 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women.
- About 62,570 new cases of carcinoma in situ (the earliest form of breast cancer) will be diagnosed.
- About 40,000 women will die from breast cancer
Most people are unaware that women of Ashkenazi Jewish descent are at a higher risk of breast cancer due to having BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations. Norwegian, Dutch and Icelandic people also have a higher risk of BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations. Men can also inherit these mutations and be at risk of breast cancer. In addition, women with these gene mutations are at higher risk of ovarian, fallopian tube and peritoneal cancer. Men’s prostate and pancreatic cancer risk increases if they have the BRCA1 or BRCA2. If one woman in a family has the genetic mutations, it is more likely that other immediate family members also have them.
I am of Ashkenazi Jewish descent, and a few years ago my physician recommended that I be tested for BRCA1 and BRCA2. At that time, the tests were extremely expensive, and my insurance would not cover it. I recently changed insurance companies, so I will be discussing testing with my new physician. I had a benign tumor removed from my breast which, had it not been removed, may well have become cancerous. My paternal grandmother and maternal aunt died from breast cancer, making me at risk as well.
For men reading this post, breast cancer is more common in males that you may imagine. I recently asked a mammogram technician if she ever performed them on men. She responded that she has three or four male patients every week getting mammograms! They wouldn’t be getting tested unless their physician believed they were at risk for breast cancer.
Returning to Breast Cancer Awareness Month, women should get a baseline mammogram at 40 years of age. Depending upon the results, there doctor may recommend annual or biennial testing from then on. On the TV show Good Morning America, Robin Roberts, is a breast cancer survivor. She encouraged one of the other hosts of the show to get her first mammogram. With no history of breast cancer in her family and being quite young, she was resistant, but she took the test. She learned that she did have cancer.
Learn more about breast cancer. You can find articles virtually everywhere this month. I am encouraging everyone – female or male – with a high risk of breast cancer schedule an appointment right away for a mammogram. It is not painful, although it is a bit uncomfortable. I hope that you will all also remind the women in your life to get a mammogram.
I wish you all good health.