By: Savannah Scarborough, Follow South Jersey Intern
SOUTH JERSEY – In 2022, an estimated 287,500 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women within the United States, along with 51,400 new non-invasive cases and an estimated 43,500 deaths, according to the National Breast Cancer Foundation. All individuals need to be educated on the symptoms and risks of breast cancer, treatment options, how many people are affected, and how to help the fight against breast cancer, especially during breast cancer awareness month.
Breast cancer is a disease in which the cells in the breast(s) grow out of control. Those breast cells can invade surrounding tissues or spread to other areas. Cell invasion occurs due to cell growth going wrong and damaging the cell’s DNA. When this happens, an overgrowth of cells forms a mass of tissue called a lump, growth, or tumor.
One and eight women are diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. Cancer is not preventable, but it is vital to know the symptoms of breast cancer and the risks at hand.
The symptoms and warning signs to be aware of are: new lumps in the breast or armpit, thickening or swelling of the breast, irritation or dimpling of the breast skin, redness or flaky skin in the nipple or breast area, pulling in or pain of the nipple, nipple discharge other than milk, any abnormal change in the size or shape of the breast, and any pain in the general area.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) says the most significant risk factor to be aware of is being a woman and getting older; breast cancer is most common in women 50 and older. Other specific risks include genetic mutations, reproductive history, having dense breasts, personal history of breast cancer, family history of breast cancer, previous treatment of radiation therapy, and exposure to the drug diethylstilbestrol.
Despite these unavoidable risk factors, there are many factors where change starts with you. Up to 30% of breast cancers may be preventable with these lifestyle changes: increased physical activity, avoiding becoming overweight or having obesity after menopause, not taking hormones, and drinking less alcohol, according to researchers.
A breast cancer diagnosis leads to treatments including breast surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. All three of these treatments are highly expensive, painful, and traumatic, and many individuals cannot afford them.
In 2020, Forbes magazine reported that medical expenditures for breast cancer were projected to reach $16.5 billion. With insurance, individuals pay ten to fifteen percent of the cost. However, without the benefit of insurance, individuals can pay between $10,000 to $200,000 or more. Additionally, depending on the severity and how far along you are in the stage of your cancer diagnosis (stage 0, 1/11, 111, 1V), the more expensive your treatment per year will cost. Therefore, early diagnosis of breast cancer is crucial.
The Breast Cancer Organization has data that found that nearly half the women, 47%, had money issues because of the cost of cancer care. Furthermore, more than 80% of women have to use personal funds to pay out-of-pocket costs. “Although most young patients with breast cancer were insured,” the researchers wrote, “one in 10 reported paying more than expected for health insurance during the 12-months period prior to the survey, and a smaller percentage lost coverage, could not afford insurance, or were denied coverage.”
As women go through a cancer diagnosis, treatments, medical bills, and expenses, everything can accumulate quickly, leading to debt and more stress. It is essential that women, and men, stay in contact with their doctors as they age to be aware of their potential diagnoses to avoid additional stress for financial and other health reasons.
There are many ways for the public to assist with the financial burden that so many women face when diagnosed with breast cancer. Visit
https://give.breastcancer.org/give/294499/#!/donation/checkout?c_src=clipboard&c_src2=text-link to donate to breast cancer funds today.
If you have a strong family history of breast cancer or are at high risk due to other factors, talk to your doctor about ways to begin reducing your risk.
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