Pink equals breast cancer awareness
By: Joanna Robnik, M.D.
Despite the oranges and blacks of Halloween, October has become a pink month. You may have noticed pink appearing everywhere from yogurt labels to the professional football field. All this pink is in place for one (good) reason: to increase awareness regarding breast cancer.
Breast cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer for women. Women in the U.S. get breast cancer more than any other type of cancer except for skin cancer. It accounts for over 10 percent of all cancer diagnosis worldwide. Each year, an estimated 200,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer.
Although women are 100 times more likely to get breast cancer, breast cancer isn’t only a women’s disease. Men are also at risk, but less so. Each year in the U.S. approximately 1,700 men are diagnosed with breast cancer.
Certain factors increase risk of developing breast cancer. They are:
• Age. Half of all women diagnosed are over 65.
• Being obese or overweight.
• A diet high in saturated fat.
• A sedentary lifestyle lacking in activity or exercise.
• Alcoholic consumption of two or more drinks per day.
• Early menstruation or late menopause.
• Having your first child at a late age (after 30), or never giving birth.
• Taking birth control pills for over 10 years – if you are 35 or younger.
• Hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
• History of radiation treatment.
• Family history of breast cancer.
In some cases, early breast cancer causes no pain or symptoms. However, common signs and symptoms are:
• Tenderness or a change in the way the breast feels.
• A lump or thickening in the breast or underarm area.
• Change in appearance of the breast.
• Changes to the nipple.
• Nipple discharge.
Treatment of breast cancer is highly successful, if the cancer is detected early. Take care of your healthcare by developing an early detection plan that includes:
• Discussing self breast exams with your doctor.
• Discussing clinical breast exams with your doctor.
• Have a baseline mammogram by age 40.
• Having mammograms every one to two years from age 40 to 49, depending on your specific situation and doctor’s recommendations. Having biennial mammograms from age 50 to 74.
Breast cancer is categorized by stages beginning with stage 0 (very early disease) to stage 4 (advanced disease). At stage zero, the cancer has not spread to outside of the breast’s ducts or lobules to the breast tissue.
In stage I breast cancer, the cancer cells are located in the breast tissue, but not in any other parts of the body, including the lymph nodes. Tumors (lumps) at stage one are sized at two centimeters or less.
Stage II breast cancer is categorized by tumors that are between two and five centimeters with no spreading to the lymph nodes. Stage IIB involves the same size tumors with spreading to the lymph nodes or a tumor up to eight centimeters with no lymph nodes being affected.
Like stage II, stage III is broken into two groups, IIIA and IIIB. With IIIA, a tumor can be between two and five centimeters with up to nine underarm lymph nodes being affected. In stage IIIB, the cancer has spread to other parts of the body near the breast.
Stage IV is the most advanced stage of breast cancer. Here, the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, not necessarily near the breast, such as the brain, liver or lungs. This is the most difficult stage of breast cancer to treat, but it should be noted that there are many people today who are alive and well and living productive lives after fighting and recovering from stage IV breast cancers.
Women and men diagnosed early (stage 0 or stage I breast cancer) have a 98 to 100 percent chance of surviving for at least 5 years. After stage I, survival rates drop. This demonstrates why it is vital to have and follow an early detection plan and see a doctor as soon as any symptoms arise.
October is breast cancer awareness month. If you are over 40 and are due for a mammogram, why not schedule one today? And when you go in for your appointment, you might want to consider wearing pink.
Dr. Robnik is a board certified family practice physician at Raiter Clinic.