By Estelle Yau (published 11/10/21)
October is breast cancer awareness month, a global campaign intended to increase awareness of the disease and to raise funds for breast cancer research. The aim is to educate people about methods of prevention to reduce their risks and to support early detection and treatment.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide. According to the American Cancer Society, 1 in 8 women in America will develop invasive breast cancer. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that there were 2.3 million women diagnosed with breast cancer and 685 000 deaths globally in 2020. Breast cancer occurs most commonly in women (age over 40 years), although younger women and men can also get the disease. Certain factors increase the risk of breast cancer, e.g. family history of breast cancer, increasing age, obesity, harmful use of alcohol, tobacco use, prolonged use of hormones, and excessive radiation exposure.
Global disparities in breast cancer incidence, mortality, and survival rates exist in the world. North America and European countries have the highest breast cancer incidence rate as new cases of the disease are diagnosed more frequently in countries in developed regions of the world. On the contrary, due to the lack of early detection programs and adequate healthcare facilities less developed countries show lower survival rates.
Breast cancer is easier to be treated effectively when it is found early. Screening mammography, early detection, and treatment of breast cancer can reduce breast cancer mortality and save the lives of thousands of women.
Here are the signs to look out for:
How to do a breast-self examination:
Recently, the WHO has launched the Global Breast Cancer Initiative (GBCI) recognizing breast cancer as a public health priority during the last decades. The objective is to reduce global breast cancer mortality by 2.5% per year, thus preventing 2.5 million breast cancer deaths globally between 2020 and 2040. The three pillars of this initiative are health promotion for early detection; timely diagnosis; and comprehensive breast cancer management.
As pharmacists, we can contribute and play a role in breast cancer awareness by raising patients’ awareness and understanding about breast cancer risks, early signs and symptoms, screening methods, and treatments.
Join the October Breast Cancer Awareness month campaign to raise awareness about breast cancer and also check what special events are held in your country this month!