Virtually all Californians will know someone whose life is touched by breast cancer. One in eight women — or nearly 12% of all women — will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. Breast cancer is the second-most common form of cancer and the second-leading cause of cancer death for women.
Six years ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Like many women, I felt a lump in my breast and I called my doctor the next day to schedule an examination. A large mass was detected and within 31/2 weeks, I had a lumpectomy, a common surgical procedure designed to remove a lump from the affected breast.
Less than a year later, two smaller lumps appeared. Although like anyone, I found the news to be devastating, I continued to have hope. I clung to the advice and guidance of my oncologists, and I also began a rigorous course of Breast Cancer 101 research on the Internet.
At the time, my support group consisted of one — my husband. I am a private person, so I refrained from telling my family and friends about what I was going through. My husband kept my “secret” but encouraged me to find an outlet to express my feelings.
After learning much from my physicians and reading about the latest in breast cancer research and examinations, I created Let Life Happen, an educational resource blog, in January 2008. It provides research, references, workshops and more information about breast cancer for those battling the condition, and for loved ones who want to learn more.
In California, nearly 200,000 women are living with breast cancer, and more than 4,200 women die of breast cancer every year. A California woman dies of breast cancer approximately every two hours. Let Life Happen is just one of many outlets that provide awareness and education.
Although much progress has been made in the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer generally, and although information on coping with the disease is bountiful, there is still more work to do.
One form of breast cancer that often receives less public attention and resources is metastatic, or Stage IV, breast cancer.
Metastatic breast cancer occurs when cancer cells spread, or metastasize, into other parts of the body, including the lungs, liver, bones or brain. Nationwide, there are roughly 155,000 American women and men living with metastatic breast cancer, and nearly 40,000 people die from breast cancer every year.
There is currently no cure for metastatic breast cancer.
As we recognize breast cancer awareness this month, it is important to shed light on the great strides made in breast cancer treatment while also urging for continued research and funding for improved outcomes for women and men suffering from this condition.
BARBARA JACOBY, works in Burbank and is the creator of letlifehappen.com.