Aaron Geerts, Express staff writer
Oct 5, 2023
Numbers don’t lie, and they bring with them the devastating truth that one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. As dire as this may seem, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and with it comes a pink storm of love, support, advocacy, education and inspiration to give those living with this deadly disease to fight.
According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, in 2023, an estimated 297,790 women and 2,800 men will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer. On average, every two minutes a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer in the US with about nine percent of all new breast cancer cases in the US diagnosed in women younger than 45 years old.
Given these daunting statistics, the nonprofit Thriving Pink is helping those afflicted with breast cancer by offering a wide variety of services from financial programs and education workshops to mental/emotional support and community outings. One of the biggest lifesaving causes the organization advocates for is early screenings.
“It’s incredibly important to participate in early screenings. So, mammograms are important, and people should talk to their doctor about when they should start their screenings. There’s been a drop off in mammograms since COVID, it’s very important to get that done but they don’t prevent breast cancer. But, they pick it up early and if breast cancer is caught early, it really is curable and treatable,” said Joni Rubin, a breast cancer survivor and chair on the board of directors for Thriving Pink. “I believe screening guidelines are changing nowadays, but I want to emphasize how important it is to talk to your healthcare provider. So, screenings might start at 40, but if you’re at higher risk for breast cancer, they might start you earlier.”
Some of the most common risk factors for developing breast cancer that one should be aware of are age, family history/genetic mutations, reproductive history, having dense breasts, radiation exposure, hormone replacement therapy, lack of physical activity, being overweight or having obesity after menopause, drinking alcohol and smoking.
Proof of early detection’s effectiveness can be found in the statistics. When caught in its earliest stages, the five-year survival rate is at 99 percent. Going hand-in-hand with advancements in early detection and treatment is the fact that women who receive regular screenings for breast cancer have a 26 percent lower breast cancer death rate than women who don’t receive screenings and there’s also been a 43 percent decline in breast cancer deaths over the past 30 years.
Winter High School Spanish teacher and breast cancer survivor, Patricia Cisneros is living proof of early detection’s lifesaving effectiveness.
“I was first diagnosed in 2018 with breast cancer. Normally, you get yearly mammograms and six months prior to my diagnosis there was nothing concerning at all. In that time, it went from nothing concerning to stage one. If I had waited until I was 50 for a screening which is what most women were doing, my story could have been completely different,” said Cisneros. “It’s been a roller-coaster ride where I get checked every six months. Come this January, it’s the five-year goal of every person with this type of cancer where they tend to say you’re ‘cured.’ So, at the moment I’m just in remission and that five-year mark is important.”
For Cisneros, developing a dark sense of humor helped immensely to boost her morale in the fight against cancer. She also fuels her fire in the fight against cancer through – somewhat macabre – art.
To learn more about how to help in the fight against breast cancer, visit Thriving Pink’s website at www.thrivingpink.org and sport the color pink all October long.