Thanks to earlier detection - through screening and increased awareness - and better treatments, a woman's risk of dying from breast cancer has dropped almost 40 percent between 1989 and 2015, saving 322,000 lives.
Reductions in the unnecessary use of menopause hormone therapy have also spared nearly 200,000 women a breast cancer diagnosis they otherwise would have received. However, there's much more to be done. Breast cancer is still the second leading cause of cancer death in women. Only lung cancer kills more women each year.
Furthermore, a large racial gap in mortality remains. African-American women have a 39 percent higher death rates compared to White women. While, African-American women have a lower incidence of acquiring the disease than White women, certain social and economic disadvantages experienced more by ethnic groups are a leading cause to the problem. Some of these disparities include: limited health care coverage, expensive treatment costs, lack of access to screening, lifestyle choices (e.g. diet and activity), lack of access to quality medical care.
In recent years, advocacy has risen for these issues. Advocates are working towards more equal breast cancer resources and care for all communities. Aside from certain inequalities surrounding the subject, science and research has supported that preventative measures can help reduce one’s risk for breast cancer, catch the cancer earlier, and increase survival rates. Doctors also encourage routine self-breast exams. Screenings combined with healthy lifestyle choices are potential contributors towards reducing the risk of breast cancer.
It is through research and advocacy that we will get to the underlying causes of breast cancer. Only then can we devise true prevention strategies.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and while there are many superficial awareness campaigns, we encourage people to seek out & support organizations that are looking for the root causes of breast cancer. NWHN is proud to support the work of Breast Cancer Action and the National Breast Cancer Coalition.
Evita Almassi, MSW, served as the Communications and Digital Marketing Manager for the NWHN. Her 10+ years in nonprofit communications – especially with social media advocacy campaigns – enabled the NWHN to reach and empower more women in their health education and advocacy journeys.
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