Why is it important to raise breast cancer awareness?

By Dorys Lopez

Breast cancer is a group of diseases, each one characterized by different molecular features, and each one with different treatment needs. Scientific advances in the field of precision medicine have made it possible to develop targeted therapies and immunotherapies, but this is a good time to remember that those therapies do not reach all patients, and even when they do, many remain unresponsive.

Breast cancer awareness month was established back in 1985 with the goal of encouraging screening among women so that breast cancer could be detected as early as possible. Some breast cancer statistics have improved in the last 36 years; the death rate has gone down, the 5- year survival has gone up, but incidence keeps fluctuating around the same range. This year, a total of 251,550 new breast cancer diagnosis and 43,600 related deaths are expected in the US.

As new therapies are being developed and released to the market, the costs of cancer care rise as well. In the last ten years the cost of breast cancer care experienced a $10 billion USD increase, affecting all patients especially minority communities. The increase in costs affects the out-of-pocket money expenses that can accumulate, leaving some with medical debt. These conditions have not only a financial, but also psychological and emotional effects, which play a part in low treatment compliance.

This month serves as a reminder that we need to take care of all aspects of breast cancer care. Precision medicine has come a long way in terms of breast cancer treatment but more needs to be done for the non-responder patients, for those who need financial support, for minorities. Precision cancer care needs to be available for all. Further research developing individualized treatments for all needs to continue in order to achieve the promise of precision medicine.

Early screening does not have a cost. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a program called the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP) that offers screening for low income or uninsured women. If you are in the Chicago area you can also visit this website to get information regarding free screening mammograms. If you live outside Chicago, contact your local public health department to get information about free breast cancer screenings. Breast cancer can happen to anyone, detecting it early is crucial. Get tested. Let’s beat the stats!