We advocate for important initiatives for research, treatment, and an end to breast cancer.
To find out more about current issues in breast cancer advocacy and legislation visit the National Breast Cancer Coalition web site at www.breastcancerdeadline2020.org.
For the latest facts about breast cancer from the National Breast Cancer Coalition www.knowbreastcancer.org.
To find out more about Breast Cancer Deadline 2020 and the National Breast Cancer Coalition go to www.breastcancerdeadline2020.org.
Every year, as Breast Cancer Awareness Month begins and the wave of pink floods my inbox, mailbox, TV screen, Facebook wall and store shelves, I cringe. This year, I have lost six friends to breast cancer. In the past three weeks, I have received more than a dozen resource requests from women newly diagnosed with breast cancer in the rural county I serve in northern Maine. What is going on? How can this be happening? Haven’t all of these pink ribbons fixed this problem yet? On the contrary, breast cancer incidence is increasing and, despite small adjustments to treatment regimens, years of campaigns to raise awareness, ever-expanding screening programs, increased fundraising efforts and research, incidence and mortality have not changed significantly.
In the United States, breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death for women, after lung cancer. The chance of a woman developing breast cancer during her lifetime has increased from about 1 in 11 in 1975 to 1 in 8 today. Approximately 40,290 women and 440 men will die from the disease in the US in 2015, and it is estimated that 231,840 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in United States women, and approximately 2,350 among the men. (ACS, 2015)
Worldwide, breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in women and the leading cause of cancer death among women. In 2012, we lost more than 522,000 women worldwide to breast cancer. That’s more than 1,400 women each day. (GloboCan, 2012)
The lack of progress is not due to insufficient resources for research.
· Since 2001, the National Institutes of Health has spent roughly a $2.8 billion on breast cancer research.
· The Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program (DOD BCRP) has allocated over $3 billion to peer-reviewed breast cancer research since 1992.
· Susan G. Komen for the Cure has spent close to $2.5 billion on research since 1982.
· The American Cancer Society has funded $86 million of breast cancer research in their multi-year portfolio.
· Since 1999, the Avon Foundation for Women provided more than $175 million to breast cancer research programs.
· Since 1993, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation has funded more than 9.5 million hours of breast cancer research.
More than 40 years and billions of dollars have not ended breast cancer. It has, however, created a robust cancer industry that thrives on raising awareness and producing drugs, screening devices and genetic tests. That’s not to say that all of the research has been fruitless. We have gained a new understanding of basic biological processes important in breast cancer. We now know that breast cancer is not one disease, but many. We know that breast tumors do not all grow at the same rate or spread in the same way, and it is not the size that determines the aggressiveness of breast cancer but the tumor biology and microenvironment. Some breast cancers are small, found early, and yet are deadly. Some are fast growing. Some grow slowly, are found by mammograms and are treated, but would never have been life threatening. Each subtype of breast cancer has distinct biological features and responses to therapies. Most scientists believe that breast cancer is caused by both inherited and somatic mutations in a specific subset of genes. There is also a growing recognition that cancer does not grow in isolation but is impacted by its immediate environment. Through research we have been able to identify risk factors impacting women, which may affect cancer growth and the body’s response to treatment. Some of these are environmental factors, factors that affect energy balance and obesity, and factors that influence immunity and the tumor’s environment within the body.