Breast cancer awareness means more than statistics to some

Emma Garcia, Staff Writer

It would be hard not to notice that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. All you can see is pink. From the football players wearing socks to the cheerleaders’ pink pom-poms you’d have to be, well, color blind.

But Breast Cancer Awareness Month is more than a color. It’s a reminder of all the things women, and the occasional man, have to go through.

“My aunt had breast cancer,” junior Mason Aguila said. “My aunt’s experience scared me because we thought we would lose her, but she’s strong and pushed through twice.”

According to breastcancer.org, about one in eight women (about 12 percent) will develop invasive breast cancer, cancer that can spread to the rest of the body, in her lifetime. This statistic is heavily contrasted to a man’s risk of developing invasive breast cancer, which is about one in a 1,000.

“It’s relieving to know that I have a lesser risk of getting breast cancer but it’s sad to know that something this deadly is so frequently found harming women’s lives,” Aguila said.

Also, for women in the U.S., breast cancer death rates are higher than those for any other cancer, except lung cancer.

“I was six years old when my mom passed away after having breast cancer for four years,” junior Reagan Sytsma said. “The statistics scare me somewhat but she was a very positive person and always saw the best in everything so I have a positive outlook on life and if I ever get breast cancer I will fight.”

In 2014, about 232,670 new cases of invasive breast cancer were expected to be discovered in women, with 62,570 new cases of non-invasive breast cancer. About 40,000 women are expected to die in 2014 from this deadly disease.

“I am not participating in any specific breast cancer awareness events this month but I am going to do something for my senior project like a breast cancer awareness walk,” Sytsma said.

If the thought of one in eight women being more likely to develop breast cancer isn’t terrifying, then think about one of two things.

One, if there are about 40 kids in a class and about half of them are female, then according to this statistic at least two of them will develop invasive breast cancer in their lifetimes.

Two, if anyone in the class has a first-degree relative who has had breast cancer, the odds of developing the cancer doubles. According to breastcancer.org, about 15 percent of women presently diagnosed with breast cancer have had a relative who also had the disease.

“My nana had breast cancer and the experience affected me extremely because we were very close,” junior Nicole Miller said. “The statistics affect me because I could easily be one of those eight and a lot of my family members have had it.”

Luckily, teenagers don’t have to worry as much about developing this disease compared to other cancers. Breast cancer has two significant risk factors: age and gender. It occurs mainly in adults, particularly adults over 50 and is, as statistics have shown, more likely to be developed in women.

“My grandmother on my mom’s side had breast cancer,” junior Abi Aragon said. “I never got to actually meet her because she died before I was born but I’ve heard a lot of stories about her and her experience from my mom and other relatives. I wish I could have gotten to meet her because she sounds amazing. It’s scary to know how high my changes are because she had it.”

According to Susan G. Komen For the Cure, although fewer than five percent of cases involve women under 40, breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer-caused death in women between the ages of 20 to 59. A younger woman’s chances of developing the cancer is also increased if she is diagnosed at a young age with the BCRA1 and BCRA2 gene mutation.

The National Cancer Institute describes the BCRA1 and BCRA2 mutation as “human genes that produce tumor suppressor proteins.” This increases a woman’s risk by affecting the productivity of proteins in her body.

Together, the two mutations account for 20 to 25 percent of hereditary breast cancers and about 5 to 10 percent of all breast cancers. The mutations can also increase a woman’s risk of getting ovarian cancer.

Studies by breastcancer.org have shown that women in the U.S. do not have more than a one percent chance at developing breast cancer until they are 40 or older.

By that point their risk is 1.45% (1 in 69) and 2.31% (1 in 43) by the time they are fifty. Of course, these statistics depend on whether or not the woman has a first-degree relative who has developed the disease.