October 1, 2007

Good News: A Look Into Why Breast Cancer Death Rates Have Declined

The month of October, also known to many as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, is dedicated towards increasing breast cancer consciousness through education and providing mammograms to those in need. The pink ribbon, as seen on the left, has been the international symbol of breast cancer awareness for over fifteen years. During Pink October, current updates and reports are also released about this disease.

On September 25, 2007, HealthDay discussed the findings of a report published by the American Cancer Society, which announced that breast cancer death rates continue to decline more than two percent annually. This is good news for many people as well as for the American Healthcare System. These findings prove that existing treatments and methods used to prevent or cure breast cancer have been successful for breast cancer patients. According to the American Cancer Society, the trend of declining breast cancer death rates “can be traced to early detection and better treatments.” With the improvement of treatment strategies and medical diagnostic tools used for early detection, it is inevitable that breast cancer rates decrease over the years. However, this was not nearly as evident for black women in comparison to white and Hispanic women, as mentioned in the report.

The claim made in Breast Cancer Facts & Figures 2007-2008 (image on the right) about the decline in breast cancer death rates being greater among white and Hispanic women than black women is considered troubling news. The explanation to such information is due to the lack of access to health care, as stated by Dr. Eric P. Winer, the director of the breast oncology center at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. In order to combat this problem, it is important that all Americans are granted the access to health care. Once this has been completed, the gap in breast cancer rates between white and black women will decrease. Additionally, patients will have the ability to detect the disease at an earlier stage where it will be more preventable and curable. This will ultimately “save lives and reduce suffering” as affirmed by Dr. Winer. Since breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer among women, access to health care will also reduce the statistical fact that more than one in four malignancies are detected in women. Although many associate this disease with women, there have been reported breast cancer cases with men.

Even with the small number of men diagnosed with breast cancer, the report listed a finding that discussed the statistical significance of male breast cancer. The incidence in males is quite rare, however, this rate increased by one percent a year between 1975 and 2004. The report further states that the cause to the increase in male breast cancer is unknown. Upon conducting research about this issue, three risk factors associated with male breast cancer may be considered. First, the diagnosis of cancer in men is different from women since the detection of cancer in men is found at a later stage than it is for women. The cancer would have metastasized throughout the body as a result of late detection. Second, those who are diagnosed with prostate cancer are in need of estrogen therapy. Such therapy requires an added amount of estrogen to the body which means that there is a higher risk to acquire breast cancer. Obesity is the third risk factor linked with this disease since the testosterone level decreases and is replaced with high levels of estrogen. The regulation of diet and exercise is needed in both men and women to reduce the risk for getting breast cancer.

In order to continue decreasing breast cancer death rates, it is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Take preventative measures such as mammography screening (image on the left), especially since there has been a reported decrease in the usage of mammography screening. This causes fewer cancers to be identified. Also, begin screening early on if health records indicate a family history of breast cancer. Consider drinking no more than one alcoholic beverage a day and maintain weight by exercising. Decrease the use of hormone replacement therapy if possible since it is linked to breast cancer and many other health risks. Most importantly, grant all Americans the access to universal health coverage to decrease the health disparities found throughout the United States.

1 comment:

KLF said...

First off, I would like to say that I really liked the timeliness of your post. The fact that October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month makes breast cancer a perfect subject for an October 1st post. Another thing I thought you did well in this post was your extensive use of quotations from outsides sources. The quotations offered stronger evidence for your claims than I think paraphrasing would have. I also thought your first and last pictures were very well chosen and I liked that you referred to all of your pictures in the text of your post. However, I did not feel your second picture enhanced the information in your post. I would have rather seen one of the graphs from the “Breast Cancer Facts& Figures” post showing the declining rates of breast cancer and also the difference between whites and African Americans. Instead, I had to search through the report to find the relevant information. The other thing I would have liked to see is more of a discussion on other possible reasons for the difference between breast cancer rates of African American women and white women. Certainly access to healthcare is an important factor, but it would have been interesting to see a discussion of other factors such as genetics or diet. Overall, your post was very enlightening and I especially enjoyed your links because they seemed to provide very reliable information about breast cancer and the various treatments.

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