Over the past 30 years, much progress has been made in the fight against breast cancer. More than thirty years ago, when Suzy Komen was told she had breast cancer, people did not say the words breast cancer out loud. It was not talked about in social circles, there was no easy internet access and it certainly wasn’t discussed on mainstream media. Our strides in progress have been significant and we are grateful that talking about breast cancer is no longer taboo.
Waves of Progress:
Over the past 30 years, researchers have identified many factors that increase breast cancer risk and a few factors that lower risk. Genetic tests for certain mutations are now used, we know that certain lifestyle choices such as exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, using alcohol or menopausal hormones or breastfeeding can have an impact on your risk for breast cancer. We know now that breast cancer is not contagious, contrary to the belief just a few short decades ago. Many risk factors are still unknown and many are simply out of our control (the two most common risk factors for breast cancer are being a woman and getting older). Although we have learned a lot, we still do not understand what causes breast cancer to develop at a certain time in a certain person. It’s likely a combination of risk factors, but why a certain combination of factors might cause cancer in one person, but not in another, is still unclear.
However, it is important to know that there are steps you can take to lower your risk. Leading a healthy lifestyle may help lower your risk of breast cancer. And, while it won’t help decrease you risk of getting breast cancer, knowing what factors may increase your risk can help you work with your health care provider to address any concerns you may have and develop a breast cancer screening plan that is right for you.
There are almost three million breast cancer survivors in the United States today (more than any other group of cancer survivors). Thirty years ago, even when breast cancer was caught early (confined to the breast) the five-year relative survival rate was about 74 percent. Today, the five – year relative survival rate is now 98 percent! And more importantly, the mortality rate has declined 33 percent since 1990 due to early detection and effective treatment.
While Komen continues to work to find a cure for breast cancer, the sheer number of survivors shows the great strides that have been made in early detection and treatment. Today, most breast cancer survivors lead long and fulfilling lives, and Komen is with these survivors at every step of their journey.