Renowned Canadian scientist Dr. Tak Mak explains that because there are so many different genetic and cell combinations that cause breast cancer there is no one treatment cures all therapy. "It's like a computer where there are, say, 20,000 pieces. In any one patient you can have 50 different pieces go wrong out of the 20,000 but it's a different piece every time." Mapping which parts go wrong is a huge part of finding cures. Breast Cancer used to be one big generic term, today doctors know how to identify types of cancer and which course of treatment is best for that particular strain.
1) Since 1999, the incidence of breast cancer in Canada has stabilized.
2) Female breast cancer mortality rate decreased from 21.8 per 100,000 in 2009 to 21.4 per 100,000 in 2010.
3) In 1986, the Canadian breast cancer mortality rate was 32 per 100,000. This rate has fallen by more than 30% and is currently the lowest it has been since 1950.
4) At present, the five-year relative survival rate for female breast cancer in Canada is 87% (84% for men) which means women diagnosed with breast cancer have an 87% likelihood of being alive 5 years after their diagnosis.
Source: Canadian Cancer Society /National Cancer Institute of Canada. Canadian Cancer Statistics 2010, Toronto, Canada, 2010
What are the reasons for higher survival rates?
1) Screening - One of the biggest advances in the fight against breast cancer is screening for early detection. Catching breast cancer early is the greatest weapon. If you are a healthy woman over 40 with no history of breast cancer in your family it is a great idea to have a mammogram every 1-2 years. You can visit www.car.ca (Canadian Association of Radiologists) Mammography Accreditation Program; to find a CAR-accredited site.
2) Research and Treatments - To develop effective treatments doctors have to be able to establish the cause and this is the time consuming part of developing a cure. It's not too long ago that all breast cancers were diagnosed and treated in the same way. Today there are distinct types of breast cancer with recognized sub-sects that can be identified and treated accordingly. Dr. Tak Mak, molecular biologist and director of The Campbell family for Breast Cancer Research at Toronto's Princess Margaret Hospital, says "In the last 20 years we are developing drugs that are more targeted and that can kill fewer normal cells and more cancer cells." More targeted treatments have fewer unnecessary side-effects.
3) Education - Before the treatments and knowledge that we have now, being diagnosed with breast cancer was a foregone conclusion. People didn't talk about it and just faced the inevitable. Today we know that having the education to understand your body and live a healthy lifestyle are your greatest defenses against breast cancer. Here are 5 things you can do in the fight against this disease:
- Learn how to perform a self breast exam (I will be posting about this on Wednesday)
- Know your family history - find out about the breast history of your family members
- Eat well and exercise - include berries and dark green vegetables in your diet (I will be posting about cancer fighting alkaline foods next week)
- Get to know your doctor - a great doctor will help you understand your body, what changes to look out for, what changes you could make in other areas (blood pressure for example) that will improve your overall health and if and when you should be making a mammogram appointment
- Donate to Breast Cancer Research. Every dollar really does bring us a step closer to keeping our Moms, daughters, aunts, nieces and grandmothers safe.