International Breast Cancer Awareness Month 2022
Think pink this October… Breast cancer is the most common cancer affecting millions of women every year according to the World Health Organization. Mothers, daughters, wives and sisters; we all have wonderful ladies in our lives who are at risk of breast cancer. This month is dedicated to raising awareness of this disease which affects one in eight women. October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, a worldwide and annual campaign established to raise awareness, promote education, and support research.
Many initiatives around the globe are helping to raise money and awareness, promoting self-examinations, and enhancing research and clinical trials which will facilitate early detection and increase the chances of survival for all the women we love the most.
What is breast cancer?
Breast cancer is the most diagnosed cancer among women worldwide, accounting for 1 in 4 cancer cases. It is the most frequent cancer amongst both sexes and is the leading cause of death from cancer in women. The estimated 2.3 million new cases indicate that one in every 8 cancers diagnosed in 2020 is breast cancer. In 2020, there were an estimated 684,996 deaths from breast cancer, with a disproportionate number of these deaths occurring in low-resource settings.
Breast cancer cells usually form a tumour that can often be seen on an x-ray or felt as a lump. If spread outside the breast through blood vessels and lymph vessels, it becomes advanced breast cancer. When breast cancer spreads to other parts of the body (such as the liver, lungs, bones or brain), it is said to have metastasised, and is referred to as metastatic breast cancer. Although there are various diagnostic methods to detect breast cancer early – such as breast exam, ultrasound, mammography, and biopsy – there is a range of breast cancer risk factors that still need to be examined further. The causes of breast cancer remain complex, as the development of the disease can be influenced by various factors. This includes a family history of breast cancer which presents a greater chance for women who have had a mother, sister or daughter previously diagnosed with the disease to develop it too.
Here are some important facts:
Risk factors for breast cancer. Certain factors increase the risk of breast cancer including increasing age, obesity, excessive use of alcohol, family history of breast cancer, history of radiation exposure, menstrual and reproductive history (the increased risk of developing breast cancer is associated with early menarche, the delay in childbearing and a later menopause), tobacco use and postmenopausal hormone therapy.
Early detection and diagnosis are key to fighting this disease. There are several ways to screen for breast cancer, including mammogram, ultrasound, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), biopsy, clinical breast exam (by a health professional), and self-breast exam. Breast cancer most commonly presents as a painless lump or thickening in the breast. It is important that women finding an abnormal lump in the breast consult a health professional. To learn more about signs and symptoms, visit the World Health Organization.
The good news is many treatment options are available. Breast cancer treatment can be highly effective, especially when it is diagnosed early, and is in the localised stage. For those who have received a diagnosis, treatment will depend upon several factors, including the stage and type of breast cancer. Treatment of breast cancer consists of a combination of surgical removal, radiation therapy and medication (hormonal therapy, chemotherapy and/or targeted biological therapy).
If you or a loved one has been affected by a diagnosis of breast cancer, know that options, resources, and support are readily available. Speak to your doctor or call the assistance programme for help with the anxiety, stress, and other factors that can affect you or your loved ones.
Survival of breast cancer for at least 5 years after diagnosis ranges from more than 90% in high-income countries, to 66% in India and 40% in South Africa. Early detection and treatment have been proven successful in high-income countries and should be applied in countries with limited resources where some of the standard tools are available. The great majority of drugs used for breast cancer are already on the WHO Essential Medicines List (EML). Thus, major global improvements in breast cancer can result from implementing what we already know works.
Declines in breast cancer mortality rates have been reported in many high-income countries, with large decreases in European and North American countries and in Australia and New Zealand, whereas countries in transition continue to show a slight increase in mortality from breast cancer, though this appears to be slowing. The favourable trends in mortality may result from the combined effects of earlier detection (screening and increased breast cancer awareness) and a range of improvements in treatments and programs.
In Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE) more than 100 women with financial difficulties have received the full spectrum of breast cancer care thanks to the DHA’s Basmah initiative, which was launched in 2019. The initiative makes Dubai authorities the first government entity in the world to provide a complete spectrum of care from screening to treatment for the three types of cancer (breast, colorectal and cervical cancer) under the essential benefit health insurance plan. Prior to the scheme, cancer coverage was limited to Dh150,000. Now there are no sub-limits and coverage is unlimited. In order to make the initiative work, all approved health insurance providers in Dubai asked policyholders to pay an additional amount of Dh19 and Dh18 for cancer and hepatitis C (HCV) treatment respectively. This sum for cancer is pooled into DHA’s trust account and helps cover the additional cost of these three types of cancer treatment.
Every year, Friends Of Cancer Patients (FOCP) and leading private and public entities will conduct free clinical breast examination and Mammogram screenings across the United Arab Emirates this month. As part of the Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM) campaign, the citizens and residents will have the opportunity to catch free screenings – Mammogram screenings and consultations with experts for women aged 40 and above throughout October.
A plan for the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer is a key component of any overall cancer control plan. Its main goal is to cure breast cancer patients or prolong their life considerably, ensuring a good quality of life. In order for a diagnosis and treatment programme to be effective, it must never be developed in isolation. It needs to be linked to an early detection programme so that cases are detected at an early stage, when treatment is more effective and there is a greater chance of cure. Furthermore, programmes should include an awareness-raising component, to educate patients, family and community members about the cancer risk factors and the need for taking preventive measures to avoid developing cancer.
It is obvious that a diagnosis of breast cancer causes stress to both the patient and the family caregivers. Coping strategies employed could either be problem-focused or emotion-focused. If you or a loved one has been affected by a diagnosis of breast cancer, know that options, resources, and support are readily available. Speak to your doctor or call the assistance programme for help with the anxiety, stress, and other factors that can affect you or your loved ones