PART 1: BE AWARE
One of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in the world, breast cancer, affects more people than both prostate and lung cancer each year, leaving women and their loved ones feeling vulnerable and lost. After heart disease, cancer has been ranked as the second most leading cause of death in the world and in 2020, there were nearly 2.3 million new cases of breast cancer diagnosed in women alone, resulting in a total of 685,000 fatalities.
According to the National Breast Cancer Coalition, it is estimated that 43,250 women and 530 men will die of breast cancer in 2022. In the past decade, chances of developing breast cancer have more than doubled, with a diagnosis occurring every 14 seconds across the globe. Despite these grim statistics and numbers, there have been a number of improvements in medication, detection and treatment, which has led to those affected feeling less panic, hopelessness and desolation.
Risk factor awareness
Spreading awareness is important in order to reduce the risk of developing the disease and potentially save lives. Many factors are taken into account when determining who may be at a higher risk, including age, family history and certain lifestyle behaviours. Early detection and treatment play a very important role in increasing survival rates amongst patients, along with many innovations that aid in preventative measures.
These days the accessibility to information and testing for early detection, as well as new treatments being offered provides people with a lot more hope than before. Breast cancer is one of the few cancers for which an effective screening test, mammography, is available. An MRI, magnetic resonance imaging, ultrasound, biopsy and other imaging tests can also be used to detect breast cancer and save lives. Routine screenings as well as self-testing can also help catch the disease at an early stage, making it easier to treat, resulting in a lower mortality rate.
As more sophisticated analytical technologies, discoveries and medications, begin to emerge globally, new possibilities for treatment are immediately put into action in clinical trials. Spreading knowledge about new research, studies and various treatment options is informative, comforting and reassuring, for many patients.
Recent treatment developments in fighting breast cancer
- PARP inhibitors are existing protein enzymes that aid in repairing damaged DNA cells in the body. As a cancer treatment, these inhibitors are used to destroy PARP (Poly ADP Ribose Polymerase) in the body from repairing cancer cells in order to kill them. Used alone or in combination with other cancer therapies, PARP has shown some promising clinical results for breast cancer patients. This treatment option could be effective for people with Triple Negative Breast Cancer, (TNBC), who have inherited mutations in a BRCA gene because of the role they play in destroying cells that lack functional BRCA1 or BRCA2.
- Another form of treatment called Immunotherapy was designed to activate immune cells and has proven to be an effective option for some patients, when combined with chemotherapy. The treatment works to help a person’s own immune system fight the cancer cells. Immunotherapy may even result in longer lasting remissions by teaching the immune system to remember and recognize cancer cells. One challenge that cancer researchers have a hard time with, is finding a drug that would affect the cancer cells directly without harming healthy cells. The Antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) was created to address this by making drugs centre on cancerous tumours through specific antibodies.
Breast cancer organisations as a support network for patients
It is important to support breast cancer organisations as they are the support networks that work hard to alleviate the stresses of diagnosed individuals, providing them with encouraging and helpful communities:
- Founded in 1992, The Pink Ribbon Foundation has provided financial support to UK breast cancer charities to help people who are suffering from the disease and to spread awareness about early detection and treatment.
- The WHO Global Breast Cancer Initiative (GBCI) work to reduce global breast cancer mortality each year and estimate that their organisation will continue to save 2.5 million lives between 2020 and 2040 by spreading public health awareness about cancer, to women all over the world.
- Breast Cancer UK create campaigns about the importance of reducing exposure to carcinogens and hazardous chemicals in the environment.
- Breast Cancer Now, is an organisation which funds breast cancer research across the UK. Patients receive access to useful and informative information in addition to emotional support.
- The Inflammatory Breast Cancer Network UK, offers online support groups in which breast cancer patients can receive advice and support during treatment. These organisations work to educate, provide research and offer support to patients, while attempting to mitigate the stress, fear and loneliness that comes with the illness.
Hope as a booster
For most women and men diagnosed with breast cancer, hope may be difficult to maintain. However, it has the potential to play a big role in increasing survival rates and improving one’s quality of life.
In the face of adversity, hope can lead to positive outcomes which is why it is important to spread awareness about the disease and different treatment options, as well as offer support to those suffering. Health professionals believe that hope, combined with medical therapy, healthy lifestyle changes and supportive care, can create the best chances to improve a patient’s quality of life.