232,000 Breast Cancer Survivors. Wow. How?
The statistics for breast cancer get a little overwhelming and hard to appreciate. Two hundred thirty two thousand is the estimated number of women with a new breast cancer diagnosis last year – 232,000 more survivors in just one year. The more familiar statistic of a 1 in 8 chance of developing breast cancer in your lifetime is fairly well known – and this applies even if you have no family history of breast cancer. This is (for the time being) the reality. However, here’s the good news: early detection saves lives – LOTS of lives. Before a cancer can be seen or felt, it can often be detected by mammography. Thus far, mammography and improved breast cancer treatments have raised the breast cancer survival rate up to 98%. Those new breast cancer survivors last year have the best odds yet of beating their disease.
Because 232,000 is a huge number, here are some ways to imagine it:…..
We could fill Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium (go Royals!) more than 6 times over with survivors. The new breast cancer survivors could fill the city of Reno, Nevada. We could load 632 jumbo jets with survivors (and wouldn’t THAT be a party!).
Aside from figuring out the logistics of how to cram 632 jets full of people who are conquering their breast cancer, there’s a bigger question:
What does it take to ensure 232,000 is just the beginning? It takes a team. A team dedicated to treating every patient so that they have the best chance of beating the disease. And a team dedicated to finding breast cancers when they are most treatable.
Early detection happens with an effort by you and the rest of your health care team. First, know thyself. Performing monthly self-exams helps you know what’s a slight bumpiness from what’s a new lump. Observing your body for physical changes (rashes, dimpling, aching, etc.) is helpful – tell your doctor about ANY change! There are annual clinical exams by your doctor or healthcare practitioner starting at age 20. Every woman over the age of 40 (or earlier if at high risk) should have an annual mammogram.
Mammograms see into the breast tissue – beyond what can be felt or found even by a careful clinical breast exam. Mammograms are an incredibly powerful tool that allows us, your radiologist, to inspect the structures of the breast to identify good health… and even find bad news. But remember, bad news caught sooner is better than bad news later. The earlier the stage of breast cancer, the better the chances of survival. And the less intense the treatment.
So, until we can figure out how to prevent those 232,000 women from getting breast cancer in the first place, let’s fill more jets, more stadiums, more races for the cure, and more homes with wives, mothers, daughters, sisters and friends who are survivors. Let’s conquer breast cancer!
Originally published 3/16/15 on mammographykc.com.