Unfortunately cancer is a common condition and there will be over 14 million new cases this coming year and over 8 million deaths world wide. In many developing countries that do not have screening programmes to detect the disease early, the diagnosis of cancer is a death sentence. Most of us live in countries where cancer research, early detection and personalised treatments are now available, and if you look at the survival rates of ten years and over, the news is encouraging.
In the UK according to overall cancer statistics from Cancer Research UK there were 363,484 new cases in 2016, and 164,900 deaths in 2017. There is now a 50% survival rate over 10 years but, 38% of cancers are preventable.
If that is the case then it would result in 138,123 fewer cases per year and 62,662 less deaths a year.
With regard to Breast Cancer, there were 55,122 new cases in the UK in 2016, 11,400 deaths in 2017, with an estimated 23% of cases being preventable. What does look more promising is that the survival rate for women for 10 years of more is 78%.
The US statistics can be found on this website Susan G. Komen In 2019, it’s estimated among U.S. women there will be:
- 268,600 new cases of invasive breast cancer (This includes new cases of primary breast cancer, but not recurrences of original breast cancers.)
- 62,930 new cases of in situ breast cancer – find out more about this in the statistics
- 41,760 breast cancer deaths
Although the survival rate in the UK and US is improving, the aim of course, is to ensure as near 100% survival rate for all those diagnosed with breast cancer. To that end, research has now become even more focused on identifying every factor involved in its development, from risk factors to individual tumour cell variations. There are some exciting new studies which you will find out about later in the post
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. But there are risk factors that are not down to genetic causes, but are a result of our lifestyle. The fact that it is estimated that 38% of cancers are preventable, should inspire us to look closely at our diet, exercise and lifestyle choices.
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 defense system as well as introducing carcinogens into the body. In the case of smoking, each cigarette has over 4,000 chemical components, many of which are toxic.
You might also be at risk if you are severely overweight and take little exercise.
You can find more details: Breast cancer detection and prevention
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: Breast Cancer self examination
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: Survival statistics
In the latest research it has been identified that there are at least 10 different variants of the disease (instead of the three already identified), and that tumours themselves may have variations in types of cancerous cells inside them and also when they spread to other parts of the body. This raises more challenges as it increases the need for very personalised treatment plans for patients.
Here is an extract from a very interesting article that I suggest you do read from Cancer Research UK. Increasing the resolution on breast cancer – The Metabric Study
Their study group, METABRIC (Molecular Taxonomy of Breast Cancer International Consortium), looked at the patterns of molecules inside tumours from nearly two thousand women, for whom information about the tumour characteristics had been meticulously recorded.
They compared this with the women’s survival, and other information, like their age at diagnosis.
While many other studies have highlighted differences between cancers, the METABRIC study looked at so many tumours that they could spot new patterns and ‘clusters’ in the data.
Their conclusion is that what we call ‘breast cancer’ is in fact at least ten different diseases, each with its own molecular fingerprint, and each with different weak spots.
This is simultaneously daunting and heartening – daunting because each of these diseases will likely need a different strategy to overcome it; and heartening because it opens up multiple new fronts in our efforts to beat breast cancer.
and from the same article –
Modern genetic technology is increasing our understanding of cancer
All of the tests described above measure the levels of proteins inside tumours. Recently, research has focused on testing which genes are switched on or off inside the cancer cells.
This has led to tests, not yet widely used in the NHS, such as ‘PAM50’. This examines 50 separate genes inside a woman’s tumour, and uses the resulting ‘fingerprint’ to group cancers into four subtypes’:
Luminal A cancers, which are usually ER+ and/or PR+ – and make up about half of all cases. They tend to have low amounts of Her2. Women with these tumours tend to have the best outlook.
There is a great deal of focus on breast cancer research and hopefully in the near future, the ‘PAM 50’ test will become routine in the NHS. That will provide even more data for these studies and identify more treatment options to save more lives.
I hope that you will read more on Breast Cancer at the links I have shared. Being informed is the first step in prevention, as is understanding how your body works, how it feels and how it might be changing.
©Sally Cronin – Just Food for Health 1998 – 2019
My nutritional background
I am a qualified nutritional therapist with twenty years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines and posts here on Smorgasbord.
If you would like to browse by health books and fiction you can find them here: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books-and-reviews-2018/