News recently broke on the global death toll of breast cancer in our newspapers, television and media. The global death toll from cancer rose to 8.2 million in 2012 with sharp rises in breast cancer as the disease tightened its grip in developing nations struggling to treat an illness driven by Western lifestyles.
Cancer deaths were up 8 percent from 7.6 million in a previous survey in 2008 and breast cancer killed 522,000 women last year, up 14 percent in the same period, according to the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).
Women are concerned and frightened from the newest update on cancer. I by no means take it lightly, however I am one of those breast cancer survivors they mention.
Your image of cancer will depend on your own perspective. It will depend on if you are the patient, family, friend or doctor. For me cancer was an emotional slippery slope. One moment you are encouraged, the next you feel alone and anger can play a part if you are fearful of the unknown – the big C. I am not frightened by cancer but why it manifests itself in our body.
At the age of twenty-seven I was diagnosed with cancer and set to go into the hospital for a radical hysterectomy. I remember how very anxious, frightened, and victimized when informed of my cancer. Just like everyone, I wanted to know how bad it was, how long I had to live, and what my choices were. I was unprepared for the size of my incision, because of the need to be exploratory; I was cut from hipbone to hipbone. I looked down and the top skin was sewn with wire and baby buttons it looked like all I had to do to see what was inside was to unbutton myself. That really did not concern me as much as some of the follow up treatments. They left me unable to properly care of my family. We had two children a daughter and son who were quite young and my daughter was continually ill.
After a few years when I was thirty years old and believing all was well in my overall health I noticed one of my breasts was becoming very itchy deep down inside. In just a few days it was larger than my other breast and kind of red and inflamed looking. I have never feared death but I had a responsibility to see my children grown.
Rather than have gloom and doom I worked on mental balance. I am vain and at thirty years old I was obviously even more so. I did not want anyone cutting my breast off (mastectomy) and I remembered waking up after my first cancer surgery completely unprepared for the size of my incision. So I learned everything I could about this type of cancer. By the way, not much was known about IBC (inflammatory breast cancer) in the 1970s. We know now that Inflammatory Breast Cancer occurs when cancer cells block the lymph vessels in the breast. The blockage causes discoloration or redness, swelling and warmth. It is a type of cancer, which looks like it grows from the inside of the breast outwards and got pretty ugly and weepy at times. It was at this time I decided to treat my cancer with nutrition, improve mental outlook and my own spiritual values of life.
You may be asking yourself why I am writing about my cancer and how I skipped the cancer treatments and yet survived? The good news is that there are now medical studies that show some cancer treatments can be skipped! This is in the Houston Chronicle today: Tens of thousands of women each year might be able to skip at least some of the grueling treatments for breast cancer — which can include surgery, heavy chemo and radiation — without greatly harming their odds of survival, new research suggests.
The research is aimed at curbing overtreatment, a big problem in cancer care. Treatments help many women beat the disease, but giving too many or ones that aren’t really needed causes unnecessary expense, trauma and lifelong side effects, such as arm swelling and heart troubles. Radiation can even raise the risk of new cancers.
Several studies presented Wednesday at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, an international conference on the disease, identify groups of patients who might be able to safely forgo certain treatments.
One found that many older women could skip radiation after surgery for early-stage tumors. Two others suggest that surgery may not help patients whose cancer has already spread widely. A fourth study tested a “light chemo” combination that could become a new standard of care.
RADIATION: Most breast cancers are found at an early stage, and many women are treated with surgery followed by hormones or chemotherapy, plus radiation. But cancer medicines have gotten so good at lowering the risk of a recurrence that doctors wonder whether the radiation is still needed. It can cause heart and other problems, especially in older women, and three or four weeks of daily treatments can be a burden.
Dr. Ian Kunkler of the University of Edinburgh in Scotland led a study of 1,326 patients 65 or older with early-stage cancers whose growth was driven by hormones. This is the most common form of the disease and the age group that accounts for most cases. Half were given radiation and half skipped it.
After five years, roughly 96 percent of both groups were alive, and most deaths were not from breast cancer. About 1 percent of those given radiation had cancer recur in the treated breast versus 4 percent of those who skipped radiation. For every 100 women given radiation, “one will have a recurrence anyway, four will have a recurrence prevented, but 95 will have had unnecessary treatment,” Kunkler said. Since radiation did not affect survival or the risk of cancer spreading, skipping it “is a reasonable option.”
In the midst of this news scare lets remember that these are “global” figures that are climbing, but here in America our figures are improving. I do not mean to indicate that cancer has been eliminated but breast cancer is not going up in the same percentage as in the past.
“Breast cancer is also a leading cause of cancer death in the less developed countries of the world,” said David Forman, head of IARC’s Section of Cancer Information, the group that compiles the global cancer data. He said this was “partly because a shift in lifestyles is causing an increase in incidence, and partly because clinical advances to combat the disease are not reaching women living in these regions.”
How many women in the United States have breast cancer?
The American Cancer Society’s estimates breast cancer in women in the United States for 2013 are:
- About 232,340 new cases of invasive breast cancer
- About 64,640 new cases of carcinoma in situ (CIS) of the breast will be found (CIS is non-invasive and is the earliest form of breast cancer).
- About 39,620 deaths from breast cancer
- Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the United States, other than skin cancer. It is the second leading cause of cancer death in women, after lung cancer.
The chance of a woman having invasive breast cancer during her life is about 1 in 8. It used to be higher as in 1 in 4 women. The chance of dying from breast cancer is about 1 in 36.
Breast cancer death rates have gone down. This is probably the result of finding the cancer earlier and better treatment. Right now there are more than 2.8 million breast cancer survivors in the United States. This data was last revised just two months ago – 10/14/2013.