Despite being a highly publicized disease in this country, far too many American women do not properly understand their personal risks of developing breast cancer. The American Cancer Society projects that 40,030 Americans will die from breast cancer in 2013.
Although not every life will be saved with early detection, and some types of breast cancer are more serious than others (see Dr. John Link’s recent blog post for more information), detecting breast cancer at an early stage can lead to a better patient prognosis. Recent data from the National Cancer Institute reinforces the role early detection can play to improve a patient’s prognosis. 5-year relative survival rates by stage:
- Stage 0 = 100%.
- Stage I = 100%.
- Stage II = 93%.
- Stage III = 72%.
- Stage IV = 22%.
Breast cancer awareness must not be limited to October (Breast Cancer Awareness Month). I hope two recently published studies provide a vivid reminder that we, as physicians, must do a better job of educating women about the personal risk of developing breast cancer.
- Today’s blog post will cover a study shared during the 2013 Breast Cancer Symposium.
- I will share my thoughts on an article in the journal of Cancer next week.
2013 Breast Cancer Symposium Study
The Breast Cancer Symposium is an event hosted by ASCO (American Society of Clinical Oncology) every September where oncology professionals meet to share and discuss breast cancer research. Among the more noteworthy studies published this year was a survey authored by Dr. Jonathan Herman of Hofstra North Shore – LIJ School of Medicine entitled “Survey Reveals that Most Women Have an Inaccurate Perception of Their Breast Cancer Risk.”
Dr. Herman and the research team asked 9,873 breast cancer screening patients in Long Island, NY a series of questions to better understand how women estimated the possibility of developing invasive breast cancer. Participating women ranged from 35 to 70 years of age. Key findings included:
- 90.6% under- or over-estimated their lifetime risk of a breast cancer diagnosis.
- 44.7% underestimated their risk.
- 45.9% overestimated their risk.
- 4/10 women have never discussed their personal risk of developing breast cancer with their doctor.
It is important for medical providers to better communicate with patients. I believe this will not only lead to earlier detection but possible prevention with risk reduction strategies. Many women will be less anxious if they know their real risks and are empowered to take measures to reduce those risks.
My Commitment to Breast Cancer Awareness
I passionately believe community education efforts can play a vital role to promote breast cancer awareness. Our practice not only emphasizes participation in community awareness events such as the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer and Komen Orange County’s Race for the Cure, we actively seek out local communities to share information.
Please contact me if you know of a local Orange County community organization or group that would be interested in hosting a breast cancer awareness talk. I am always motivated and excited to bring this message to men and women.