Unfortunately cancer is a common condition and there will be over 14 million new cases this coming year and over 8 million deaths. The good news is however that research and the resulting more focused treatments for the various forms of the disease are more successful in curing the disease.
Because this is such a critical issue for so many I am splitting the posts into four over the next month.. I will be looking at breast, prostate, lung and bowel cancers with not just the statistics but how you can stay informed and proactive about the disease.
Some of you will have read the following last year in the women’s health week.. but I do think that the message of GET CHECKED is worth repeating, especially for those of you who were not following the blog last year.
The diagnosis of Breast Cancer strikes fear into the heart of us all. Not that the disease is exclusive and men too can develop this disease. The survival rates for breast cancer are definitely improving and this is down to awareness and early diagnosis. However, whilst in the Western world we are actively encouraged to have regular mammograms, this has recently been questioned. However, we as women know our bodies extremely well and it is that intimacy that should alert us to a change in our breasts very early on.
First a look at the statistics
‘Breast cancer is the top cancer in women worldwide and is increasing particularly in developing countries where the majority of cases are diagnosed in late stages.‘
521,900: The estimated number of breast cancer deaths in women worldwide in 2012 which is the last complete reporting date.
Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in women; however, when looking just at developed countries, lung cancer was the most common cause of cancer death in 2012, surpassing breast cancer. This change reflects the tobacco epidemic in these women, which occurred later than in men, according to the report. Also, the incidence of breast cancer is increasing in the developing world due to increase life expectancy, increase urbanization and adoption of western lifestyles.
It is estimated that there were 1.7 million new cases diagnosed in 2012. However, this figure does not include women who develop the disease in countries where there is little health care and zero reporting of the statistics.
The good news is the survival rates have increased with earlier detection, more targeted treatments and better medication.
Breast cancer survival rates vary greatly worldwide, ranging from 80% or over in North America, Sweden and Japan to around 60% in middle-income countries and below 40% in low-income countries (Coleman et al., 2008). The low survival rates in less developed countries can be explained mainly by the lack of early detection programmes, resulting in a high proportion of women presenting with late-stage disease, as well as by the lack of adequate diagnosis and treatment facilities.
Most of us in developed countries are living longer due to better diet and medical care. Recent research does support the fact that we all have rogue cells that might at some stage develop into cancer, particularly if we live into our eighties and nineties. If we have a poor diet full of sugars and have worked in a hazardous environment our immune systems may not function efficiently allowing for diseases such as cancer to move from harmless to dangerous.
There are a number of risk factors that have been identified, but apart from a clear genetic link to mutated genes such as BRCA1, BRCA2 and p53, there is only firm but not definitive links to other triggers. These include prolonged exposure to hormones such as oestrogen because of an early start to puberty before the age of 12 years old or a late menopause after 55 years old.
Lifestyle and diet are likely to play a role as a nutritionally poor diet is likely to result in poor immune system function allowing all pathogens to flourish.
There have been studies which indicate that exposure to hormone replacement therapy and birth control might raise the risk factor as will being exposed to chemicals within the work place.
Lifestyle choices such as smoking, recreational drugs and drinking excessive alcohol can be increased risk factors as they will undermine the body’s own defences as well as introducing carcinogens into the body. In the case of smoking over 4,000 chemicals many of which are toxic.
You might also be at risk if you are severely overweight and take little exercise.
More details can be found at the following links.
If you notice any changes in your breasts that are not associated with your normal monthly cycle or pregnancy then contact your GP or health provider.
Here is an excellent article on self-examination that you should complete at least once every month.
In certain countries there are various health checks that are available to screen for specific cancers between certain ages and it is important that every woman take advantage of these.
The Good News.
If breast cancer is detected early and treated there is between an 88% and 93% survival rate. This drops to between 74% for stage two and 49% for stage three.
If you have not had a breast examination for several years then make it your priority in the next month.
I can recommend that you read Judith Barrow’s personal story about breast cancer.. it is inspiring and also gives hope to us all.
Thanks for stopping by and if you could…. please pass on this important message to others in your network.. not just women but the men who love and support them. Thanks Sally