Breast Cancer Awareness is upon us. Not only because it’s October, but it’s getting more exposure in the media than ever. All the campaigns, events, walks, commercials, it’s everywhere for the sake of education, prevention, early detection and finding the cures.
We’ve come a long way baby! With approximately 2.8 million breast cancer survivors in the U.S. and some of them males, we no longer look at breast cancer as a death sentence or even consider radical mastectomies as our only treatment option. This month marks the 32nd anniversary of national breast cancer awareness month in October. National organizations recognize the need for continued research into this disease which, according to breastcancer.org, afflicts an estimated 231, 840 new cases of invasive breast cancer to be diagnosed in 2015, that is 1 in 8 women.
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Thanks to increased awareness in the U.S., screening and better treatment options have radically improved the once fearful death sentence of a breast cancer diagnosis. Remember to do your self breast exam monthly. Go to www.earlydetectionplan.org/
The first recognition of breast cancer disease dates back to the Egyptians over 3500 years ago. Theories about what caused the disease by physicians hypothesized anything from curdled milk to sedentary lifestyles. Then around the 18th century, French physicians came to recognize treatment could be found by surgery. This would include the total removal of the breast and muscle, known as the Halstead mastectomy.
Up through the middle of the 20th century, the practice of removal of pituitary and adrenal glands, and ovaries was linked to the discovery of estrogen producing organs and smaller tumors. By the 1970’s a correlation between a lumpectomy and subsequent chemotherapy or radiation could lead to the same results as a radical mastectomy thus lowering this option for treatment to less than 10% by the 1990’s.
Today, because it is understood that cancers are not just one type of cell, treatments can include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and anti-estrogen therapy or combinations of these therapies specific to each diagnosis.
Another important milestone in the treatment of breast cancer back in 1976, was when the American Cancer Society first started recommending mammography for early detection of cancer in women and with regular mammograms and self-exams can result in catching cancer development in an earlier stage, keeping survival rates high.
Many women are aware that chances of having breast cancer in a person’s lifetime increases (almost doubles) if they have a first degree relative with the disease, but screening is important for everyone. Stats show nearly 85% of new cases have no history of breast cancer in their families and a person’s age can affect the severity of the disease. In elderly women( those 55 and older) cancers are more likely to be invasive than it is in younger women.
I am a practicing social worker for over 35 years, mostly in health care.
Social work has been both rewarding and challenging. The profession has allowed me to work in areas such as trauma, oncology, orthopedics, intensive care, psychiatric , hospice, maternal child health and other fields. I have taught classes, mentored SDSU students, worked with most of the larger health care companies in San Diego and recently went back to school for a certificate in school social work.
Acknowledging the need for improved resources and accessibility for the elderly, I have recently joined a home care company providing quality caregivers to clients in need, most of them wanting to remain in their own home environment with adequate supports.
Clients have taught me so much over the years. I am as excited about my work today as I was when I started and look forward to many more professional years ahead.