As we prepared for our annual October “Pink” issues that are part of our ongoing campaign dedicated to Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, I began to reflect on what it all means to me as I finish my 4th year as a survivor.
Once breast cancer attacks your body, even after you have been declared cancer-free, awareness and vigilance never go away, nor should they. Sometimes I think it’s just hiding out and waiting to attack me again when I least expect it. Last year, my regularly scheduled checkups showed what my doctors called an “anomaly.” Not a recurrence, but a possible precursor. Fortunately, it was a false alarm. A great deal of emotion and uncertainty went into that episode. Looking at it in retrospect, was the “false alarm” worth it? Darn right it was! The early warning anomaly could have just as easily been life-saving. I am grateful for all of the advances in detection, even if I have to go through a scare.
Screenings and, when necessary, treatment to defeat this killer have improved tremendously over the past 50 years. Women who were victimized and died then are being saved today and are thus able to live fulfilling lives. However, we are still not done. I just did some research and while I am far from being a statistician, it looks like the death rate from new cases in the U.S. has decreased by about 30% since 1992 and 89% of newly diagnosed cases now survive 5 years.
All of this is certainly progress. However, there were 266,000 new cases diagnosed in 2018. That’s 15% of all new cancer cases. What can be done to lower this? Lifestyle changes, diet, lower alcohol consumption, new and even better early warning tests. That and more. The fight is far from over. Keep making strides. Share your time. Give back.