I’ve made it through half of my blog posts, so it seemed like a good time to write something that’s a bit less about me and about a lot of other people, too many others, who have been affected breast cancer and other cancers. During my journey, I felt aware of what was going on in the cancer setting. I’ve learned a lot about the disease, especially breast cancer, and the ways in which people suffer. I’ve learned from doctors, books, websites, organizations, and people who’ve had cancer. Learning took place from my day 1 diagnosis and is still ongoing. I’d like to share a bit with you.
I became aware of certain facts about breast cancer. I was shocked to learn the facts cited here from the National Breast Cancer Foundation:
- 1 in 8 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime
- A woman is diagnosed with breast cancer in the U.S. once every two minutes
- Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, other than skin cancers
- 64% of breast cancer is diagnosed as localized or not spread outside the breast – it has a 99% 5-year survival rate
- In 2020, the estimated number of women that will die from breast cancer is 42,170 with over 350,000 new cases arising (about ¾ invasive, ¼ non-invasive.
- A small percentage (.25%) of people have the BRCA gene that makes them more likely to develop breast cancer and at a younger age
- Men can get breast cancer, estimated diagnosis of 2,620 men in 2020 with 520 deaths
Let it sink in. It’s way too many women with the disease and dying from it, along with the smaller number of men. It’s sad, and it needs to change.
Before I had breast cancer, I hadn’t heard a lot of related terminology. When people talked about metastatic breast cancer (MBC), also called stage 4 cancer, I didn’t know what it was. I became aware, so I learned. It’s cancer that’s spread from the breast to other parts of the body. With breast cancer, if it spreads, it most commonly attacks the bones, liver, lungs, chest wall, or brain. Some other cancers can spread like this including lung, prostate, colon, and rectal cancers.
When cancer spreads, it’s still the same cancer. If a person’s breast cancer moves into the bones, she has breast cancer in her bones. The same thinking applies to any spreading cancer.
Cancer can be discovered at any stage, even as pre-cancerous cells or cells in stage 0. My cancer was considered stage 2A invasive ductal carcinoma, based on tumor size and that it hadn’t spread into lymph nodes. Some people aren’t diagnosed until the cancer is at an advanced stage 3, or has already metastasized to stage 4. Treatment becomes more difficult in later stages. According to the American Cancer Society, the five-year survival rate for MBC is 22%.
Some women with MBC live for years under treatment. Still, we lose too many, too soon. If you have MBC, I want to recognize you, to honor you for your fight. I can’t know your battle, physically and emotionally, but I know you’re an amazing person that will work to defy the odds. Readers, keep these women in your thoughts and prayers.
On a different note, I want to recognize women who’ve had a mastectomy, which is breast removal, and extensive breast surgery. I chose a lumpectomy, and I’m still self-conscious about the changes in my body. For some women, mastectomy the best lifesaving option. The surgery and recovery is difficult and leads to self-image adjustment and emotional changes. Reconstruction surgery is very hard to go through, too, if elected. I’ve seen these women, known these women, and I think of them no differently than I would otherwise. They are beautiful, smart, kind, successful whatever they were before and more because of all they’ve gone through!
I honor those of you who have cancer now of any type, or who have been through it. It leaves behind long-term side effects and the fear of return. Also, I feel for those of you who have lost a loved one due to cancer. It’s always too soon. They’re always with you in memories.
I hope you’ve developed a feeling of awareness that led to learning. I’m happy to answer any questions. Comment here, on my Facebook post, or by personal contact. I’m not an expert but if I can help, I will. Also, if I got anything wrong, let me know! Until then, get YOUR annual mammograms and talk to your doctor about any suspicious lumps, knots, pains, irritations that won’t go away, and so on. If you believe something is wrong, keep going until you get an answer. Your life depends on it.
Act on your awareness and understanding. Please be kind to women with breast cancer and others with cancer. Reach out to talk or help. Donate to organizations for support and research. We need to keep fighting to cure breast cancer and all other cancers.
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