Joan was an RN with decades of nursing experience. When she found the lump in her breast she didn’t tell anyone. She couldn’t bear the thought of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and all that went with those treatments. She silently hoped the lump would disappear and she kept her secret for a full year before seeking care. Joan’s lump turned out to be a lipoma, a simple fatty tumor, and it was removed in a minor surgical procedure. She didn’t have cancer after all.
Joan should have sought care earlier; early detection and intervention is the key to positive outcomes in treating breast cancer. A study released at the ASCO (American Society of Clinical Oncology) Breast Cancer Symposium earlier this month revealed that a startling 75% of women who died from breast cancer had not participated in breast cancer screening. Early detection saves lives.
We continue to make progress; breast cancer rates are declining. The most recent report from the American Cancer Society proclaims that breast cancer rates have dropped by another 2%, continuing a decade-long decline. That means about 15,000 deaths were avoided in 2009 alone. This is good news!
And there is more we can do. Healthy lifestyle practices including regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, breastfeeding, and limiting the intake of alcoholic beverages can reduce the incidence of breast cancer by a whopping 38%, according to a recent report by the American Institute for Cancer Research/World Cancer Research Fund entitled, Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: A Global Perspective.
Encourage the women you know to get their mammograms and to seek out care when something seems amiss. Fear and secrecy don’t work, empowerment and action do. Promote breastfeeding. Make changes in your own lifestyle to incorporate exercise, healthy eating, and weight control; your positive example helps those around you change their habits. It’s time to imagine a world without breast cancer! We must keep working toward this goal. I believe we can do it if we work together and if we help each other.