The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates that by the year’s end in the United States 268,600 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women and 41,760 will die from the disease.
In North Carolina, where breast cancer ranks at the top of all new cancer diagnoses, that breaks down to 8,870 new cases and 1,390 deaths.
“There is a one in eight chance that a woman will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer during her lifetime,” said Sushma Patel, M.D., a radiation oncologist with FirstHealth of the Carolinas. “While rates of death due to breast cancer are declining due to better screening and improved treatment options, we still have a long way to go.”
To aid in the battle against breast cancer, FirstHealth of the Carolinas joins National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a campaign held every October to increase awareness of the disease and the importance of early detection.
“Early detection of breast cancer, when it’s small and contained, is the key to improved survival,” said Patel. “It’s essential that women have an annual mammogram, conduct a (monthly) self-exam and watch for changes in their breasts, including swelling, skin thickening or redness, breast warmth or itching and nipple discharge.”
ACS recommends women with an average risk of breast cancer to have yearly mammograms by age 45, but women at a high risk for the disease should talk with their physicians about starting mammograms earlier.
Contributing factors to a higher risk include a family history of the disease; a known BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation in the patient or in a first-degree relative (parent, brother, sister or child); radiation therapy to the chest between the ages of 10 and 30 years; or have Li-Fraumeni syndrome, Cowden syndrome, Bannayan-Riley-Ruvalcaba syndrome, or first-degree relatives with one of these syndromes.
As men have breast tissue, they are also at risk for the disease, although at a much lesser rate; their lifetime risk is 1 in 833. The ACS estimates that by the end of 2019 about 2,670 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in American men and 500 will die from the disease.
Fortunately for patients in the Sandhills, the FirstHealth Cancer Care team offers comprehensive breast cancer care including screening and diagnostic imaging, breast biopsies, breast cancer surgery, medical and radiation oncology, genetic testing and clinical trials.
For patients with any cancer diagnosis, a deep and wide array of support services is at the ready, including oncology nurse navigators who support and guide patients through their cancer journey, a financial navigator, nutritionists, social workers, support groups and spiritual counseling, cancer wellness programs, CareNet volunteers and many other supports that patients are referred to as necessary.
“Patients need to focus on getting well, not worry about barriers to care,” said Lynn Lanier, MSN, R.N., ONN-CG, an oncology nurse navigator at the FirstHealth Outpatient Cancer Center. “These supports are carefully designed to help lessen the anxiety associated with a cancer diagnosis and treatment.”
Sandhills residents can join FirstHealth in the fight against breast cancer in a number of ways:
Participate in the 1in8k Run for Moore, a 1k fun run and 8k run/walk on Saturday, October 12. This annual community event in the Village of Pinehurst raises funds to fight breast cancer, increases public awareness and allows individuals to honor and support those who have battled or are currently battling the disease. Information is available at firsthealth.org/1in8k.
Get a mammogram at any FirstHealth facility in October and receive a free pink lunch bag. Find locations at firsthealth.org/imaging and call (866) 415-2778 to schedule.
“I am looking forward to the day when the ‘1 in 8’ statistic changes to ‘1 in a million’,” said Patel. “We just need to keep working to achieve that goal.”
Courtesy photo: Lynn Lanier, MSN, R.N., ONN-CG, oncology nurse navigator, and Sushma Patel, M.D., radiation oncologist, of the FirstHealth Cancer Care team.