By Best Doctors
Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers in women, behind only skin cancer. In the U.S., about 1 in 8 women and 1 in 1,000 men will develop invasive breast cancer. That’s about 30 percent of all new cancer diagnoses in women this year. However, there is good news: The number of cases has been decreasing since 2000.
October has been designated as Breast Cancer Awareness Month in countries across the world to raise awareness and support for the early detection and treatment of breast cancer.
Breast cancer around the world
Globally, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, accounting for 12 percent of new cancer diagnoses each year and representing 25 percent of all cancers that affect women. Surprisingly, incidence rates – the number of cases per 100,000 females – are far higher in the United States and European Union at 92.9 and 80.3 respectively, but survival rates are much lower than other parts of the world.
North America, Sweden and Japan’s breast cancer survival rates are 80 percent or higher. This figure drops to 60 percent in middle-income countries and further falls to 40 percent in low-income countries. These countries often don’t have programs to diagnose breast cancer in its early stages, which significantly lowers chances of survival.
Diagnosis and treatment
Doctors can treat breast cancer most effectively before the disease progresses into later stages. Therefore, it’s important for women to educate themselves about preventive measures they can take to ensure their lifelong health. Each month, women should do a breast self-exam. At the doctors’ office, they should get clinical breast exams each year and annual mammograms after turning 40.
If you or your doctors detect a potential risk, the first step generally is taking a biopsy sample. After that, clinicians examine breast pathology and determine the stage and possible treatment options, which must always take into account evidence-based options, as well as the patient’s unique situation, like cancer stage and comorbidies. Options include treating the tumour directly via surgery or radiation therapy, as well as chemotherapy or other types of drugs.
While some risk factors can’t be changed, like family history, there are steps you can take to reduce your chances of getting breast cancer. If you’ve already received a cancer diagnosis, these actions may also help improve you they feel throughout treatment and even your treatment outcome:
- Get moving — Though exercising is hard for women going through treatment, walking just a few times a week can make a big difference to energy, stamina and cognitive ability. Yoga can also help to reduce treatment side effects.
- Eat healthy — A diet rich in fruits and vegetables can lower the risk of cancer. This remains equally important throughout treatment.
- Sleep well — A 2016 study found that women who had slept 5 or less hours a night were 1.5 times more likely to not survive a breast cancer diagnosis compared to those who got 7 or 8 hours of rest.
- Meditate — It’s important to take care of your mind as well as your body. Dr. Ann Partridge, director of the Program for Young Women with Breast Cancer at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, explains emotional distress can cause people to perceive their feeling worse.
Best Doctors and breast cancer: Trish’s story
As many as 90,000 cases of breast cancer a year are misdiagnosed, so it’s important to always get a second opinion. Best Doctors draws on the top oncologists in the world—so you can be sure you’re getting the right diagnosis and treatment, and the peace of mind you deserve.
One of our members, Trish, noticed a lump on her right breast and her life changed drastically. After tests revealed it was cancerous, Trish was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer, stage 1. She underwent a partial mastectomy and heavy doses of chemotherapy and radiation. But Trish and her husband had questions. “We wanted to make sure everything that was done to me was what should have been done,” she said.
She and her husband decided to reach out to Best Doctors. Her member advocate, a radiation oncologist, interviewed her to collect her medical history. “The Best Doctors [physician] was really caring and compassionate, and he let me talk.” Trish said. “[Best Doctors was] very patient and took a lot of time talking to us, making sure we felt really good about everything.”
In the meantime, Best Doctors collected her medical records and retested her pathology at a medical Center of Excellence. Then, Best Doctors summarized all of the information and sent everything to an expert breast medical oncologist and breast surgeon.
After a thorough review of her case, the Best Doctors experts agreed with Trish’s treatment. She and her family were relieved. The Best Doctors report contained “very specific” answers to all her questions and included “unbelievably detailed explanations.” She said she truly felt as though she was being listened to and taken care of as a patient.
“In their expert opinions, they felt like I had an excellent prognosis,” Trish said. “I cried the day I talked to Best Doctors because I never once heard that from any of the people I was treated by here [in Vancouver]. After sending her the report, Best Doctors scheduled a call to answer any remaining questions Trish and her husband had.
“It was all top notch. I have nothing but good things to say about them.”