Breast cancer is a very serious topic to dive into. I always viewed this month as the month with the all the cute jewelry and pretty pink shirts with nifty slogans.
Then it touched me.
My maw maw was diagnosed with breast cancer several years ago. The first time they were able to remove it with surgery without chemo treatment and she healed but randomly one day it popped up again in her other breast. This time it came with a vengeance. She ended up having to go through chemo, lost all her hair, had both breasts removed, and was very distraught and sick for a long time. She ended up beating it again but this time it took with it her lively, vivacious soul.
For those of you who have never felt what cancer really is like I want you to think about how it would feel to lose your woman card. Many women who have had their breasts removed because of cancer feel like they aren’t a woman anymore. Think about what it would be like to take a shower one day and pull out clumps of your hair. What it would be like to have to go wig shopping instead of going to the salon to get highlights or a blow out. My maw maw use to be a beautician so she took her hair very seriously so to lose it was very hard on her. Nobody truly understands cancer until they have been through it and it is very traumatic.
Men can also get breast cancer.
About 2,600 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in men in 2016. A man’s lifetime risk of breast cancer is about 1 in 1,000. About 1 in 8 U.S. women (about 12%) will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. In 2016, an estimated 246,660 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women in the U.S., along with 61,000 new cases of non-invasive breast cancer.
For women in the U.S., breast cancer death rates are higher than those for any other cancer, besides lung cancer. Besides skin cancer, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among American women. In 2016, it’s estimated that just under 30% of newly diagnosed cancers in women will be breast cancers. About 40,450 women in the U.S. are expected to die in 2016 from breast cancer, though death rates have been decreasing since 1989.
These numbers are frightening and to me a reality check. According to these statistics, more than likely, someone you know will be diagnosed with breast cancer. It touches everyone eventually. Sometimes you won’t even know because people sometimes choose to suffer in silence so they don’t “burden” those around them with the grief and stress. My maw maw was so afraid to tell us and hid it from all of us until she had to go through chemo and couldn’t hide it anymore. She felt ashamed, embarrassed, and afraid.
What causes breast cancer?
No one really knows the complete answer to this question but there are many theories. Breast cancer incidence rates in the U.S. began decreasing in the year 2000, after increasing for the previous two decades. They dropped by 7% from 2002 to 2003 alone. One theory is that this decrease was partially due to the reduced use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) by women after the results of a large study called the Women’s Health Initiative were published in 2002. These results suggested a connection between HRT and increased breast cancer risk.
Another theory has to do with your DNA. About 5-10% of breast cancers can be linked to gene mutations (abnormal changes) inherited from one’s mother or father. Mutations of the BRCA1 andBRCA2 genes are the most common. On average, women with a BRCA1mutation have a 55-65% lifetime risk of developing breast cancer. For women with a BRCA2 mutation, the risk is 45%. Breast cancer that is positive for theBRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations tends to develop more often in younger women. An increased ovarian cancer risk is also associated with these genetic mutations. In men, BRCA2 mutations are associated with a lifetime breast cancer risk of about 6.8%; BRCA1 mutations are a less frequent cause of breast cancer in men.
But with that being said the number for women without any family history of breast cancer is staggering in itself. About 85% of breast cancers occur in women who have no family history of breast cancer. These occur due to genetic mutations that happen as a result of the aging process and life in general, rather than inherited mutations.
As you can see there are many theories and unknowns out there when it comes to what causes breast cancer. This is why it is SO IMPORTANT that you get checked regardless if your man or woman. You should educate yourself ahead of time to ensure that you are prepared for that day you hear the news or even to better understand someone else who is going through it. Here are some resources below to further your education and also ways you can help support the funding to find a cure: