October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a time when people worldwide come together to raise awareness about breast cancer and promote early detection and treatment. Breast cancer is a disease that affects millions of lives every year. It affected my life this year, and I met so many others in the same fight. If you feel something wonky, go to a doctor immediately. Get your mammogram! The earlier you know, the more likely you are to win the battle and go on with your life.
So many women went before me and were so brave. Their experiences made mine a little easier and made my survival more likely. I am forever grateful to them. Let’s take a moment and think of them and their sacrifices. Take a moment to think of the women currently suffering through chemo and other treatments, and of the men. Breast cancer affects men as well as women. Lend them your strength. Lend them some kindness.
The Most Common Cancer
Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women worldwide, with over 2 million new cases diagnosed annually. The incidence rate varies by region, with higher rates in developed countries. Early detection and improved treatments have led to a decline in breast cancer mortality rates in recent years. Yay! Go warriors!
Facts About Breast Cancer
1 in 8 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. In 2023, an estimated 297,790 women and 2,800 men will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer. Chances are, you know at least one person who has been personally affected by breast cancer. If you’re reading this, you know me.
There are currently over 3.8 million breast cancer survivors in the United States.
An estimated 43,700 U.S. women will die from breast cancer in 2023. Bless their souls.
Risk of breast cancer recurrence depends on the type and staging of the initial breast cancer. Typically, the highest risk of recurrence is during the first few years after treatment and decreases over time.
On average, every 2 minutes a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States.
Signs and Symptoms
Nipple tenderness or a lump or thickening in or near the breast or underarm area
A change in the skin texture or an enlargement of pores in the skin of the breast (some describe this as similar to an orange peel’s texture)
A lump in the breast. Not all lumps are cancerous, but you need to get it checked out.
I had no pain or tenderness, but I did have a lump. It showed up all of a sudden. I didn’t delay medical intervention. That’s really important. I had a fast growing, evil beast trying to kill me. Don’t give it a chance to kill you.
Treatment and Hope
Treatment regimens depend on what kind of cancer you have. Most start with surgery and then have radiation treatments. If hormones are a factor, treatments to counteract the hormones will be given. Some get oral chemo or a few rounds of chemo. I had the unlucky kind, which is less common, triple-negative breast cancer. That involved chemo, surgery, and radiation in that order. I’m about to start my radiation treatments. No matter the type of breast cancer, many warriors have gone before you. The treatments work, especially if the cancer is caught early.
Yeah, it’s been a rough year and chemo was no picnic, but the outcome has been the best. I had a total response to treatment, which means I no longer have evidence of cancer, which means the cancer is dead. Because I had a life-threatening reaction to one of the drugs for one of my chemo regimens, I couldn’t complete all of my chemo rounds. Yet, I still had a positive outcome.
So Get Your Mammogram!
Early detection means everything. Aggressive cancers can show up betweem mammograms, like mine. So even if you have a great mammogram and find something funky later, see a doctor. The ealier the cancer is found, the less likely it is to have infiltrated the lymph nodes and other parts of your body. The less body parts involved, the easier surgery and radiation will be. Don’t think you can’t afford a mammogram or treatment. There are tons of programs out there to help. Reach out. You’re not alone. There are currently over 3.8 million breast cancer survivors in the United States. And we’ll all tell you the same thing, you’re going to be fine. Most cancer centers have social workers with the means to get you what you need to win the fight. Hell yes, it’s scary, and it’s daunting, but millions of us did it. So can you!
Survivors and Victors!
Breast cancer survivors are living proof that early detection, advanced treatments, and unwavering support can lead to successful outcomes. Here I am. I’m your proof. I didn’t do it alone. I had so much support, and there are all the women and men who went before us so that we can have successful outcomes. There are constant clinical trials to improve treatments and there are standardized regimens for every type of breast cancer. Even if you end up with the uncommon, more difficult kind like I did, you’re going to be okay. Just be brave and see a doctor!
If you’re lucky enough to have never danced with the beast, Breast Cancer Awareness Month is still an opportunity to get involved and make a difference. You can participate in fundraising events, support organizations that provide vital services to patients and families, and promote breast cancer awareness on social media. Or support someone you know going through it.
I’ll be donating all proceeds from the sales of any of my poster packs, especially the cancer poster pack, to Sara’s Project, which promotes women’s health through education, provides outreach, funds research, and finances breast cancer support services.
Fight like a girl! Pink is powerful!
Stats taken from BreastCancer.org