Every year during the month of October, people all across the country join together to raise awareness about breast cancer, a disease that affects about 12% of the female population in the U.S. Over the years, the pink ribbon which represents the seriousness of this disease has proved to be a powerful symbol of awareness, motivating people to find the most efficient ways to reduce the risk of developing this life-threatening disease and how to cure it. From scientific discoveries and research to various nationwide efforts and events, 2019 has brought major progress on preventing the development of breast cancer and helping people live healthier, happier lives.
From a scientific lens, there have been several important advancements in the discovery and treatment of breast cancer. Breast cancer is unique among other types of cancer, as it is one of the only types for which a screening test can be performed. In the past, MRI’s, ultrasounds, and clinical breast exams have been used to detect breast cancer early on, but they have never been used as routine screening tools. A new method of screening called 3-D mammography has recently been introduced. This technology builds a three-dimensional image of a patient’s breast. So far it’s unknown whether this method is actually more effective at detecting breast cancer at an early stage. Even so, it is certainly a noteworthy technological advancement.
The main methods of breast cancer treatment are surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and targeted therapy. However, scientists are working to develop new methods of treatment, such as prescription drugs or combinations of two types of treatment. A new form of drug developed this year has been proven to increase survival rates of patients by thirty percent, which is a remarkable achievement and a hopeful sign for the future of breast cancer treatment.
According to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, scientists now know that breast cancer is actually composed of several diseases, each of which can be classified into their own sub-categories, allowing doctors to create more personalized treatments for their patients. Breast cancer treatments used to be based on the “one size fits all” concept, but, now that focus has shifted to more specific treatment plans that are suited for just one person, making it easier to treat rare and specific subsets of breast cancer. More and more research has also surfaced that supports the theory that obesity and high alcohol consumption have the potential to worsen breast cancer, and regular exercise and a healthy diet can reduce the risk. The survival rate of cancer patients has also increased, with two out of every three people living at least five years after being diagnosed.
In addition to hopeful and uplifting scientific research, many local San Diego events helped raise awareness and promote positive change throughout the month of October. The American Cancer Society hosted their Making Strides Against Breast Cancer marches across the nation, including hosting a march in San Diego at Balboa Park on October 20th. La Jolla Country Day also hosted some special events in October to combat breast cancer, including the “Pink Game” volleyball match that raised money and all of the pink decorations our Community Service Board put up to remind us of the importance of raising awareness. Students from our school also participated in Pedal the Cause, a biking competition that uses all proceeds to fund cancer research.
This year’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month not only inspired others to participate in marches and other events and to help raise money, but it also reminded us of all the incredible scientific advancements that have been made in 2019 and have strengthened the nationwide motive to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer. It is truly inspiring to see all the progress that has been made, and we can’t wait to see what will be achieved in the upcoming year!
“Advances in Breast Cancer Research.” National Cancer Institute, https://www.cancer.gov/types/breast/research.
“Cancer Awareness Calendar.” American Cancer Society, https://www.cancer.org/about-us/who-we-are/cancer-awareness-calendar.html.
“Clinical Cancer Advances 2019 at a Glance.” ASCO, 7 Feb. 2019, https://www.asco.org/research-progress/reports-studies/clinical-cancer-advances-2019/clinical-cancer-advances-2019-glance.
“Our Progress.” Breast Cancer Research Foundation, 7 Nov. 2019, https://www.bcrf.org/progress.
Staff, Science X. “New Breast Cancer Drug Found to Boost Survival Rates by 30%.” Medical Xpress – Medical Research Advances and Health News, Medical Xpress, 1 June 2019, https://medicalxpress.com/news/2019-06-breast-cancer-drug-boost-survival.html.
“U.S. Breast Cancer Statistics.” Breastcancer.org, 13 Feb. 2019, https://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/understand_bc/statistics.