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Fight Like a Girl?

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Fight Like a Girl?

The month of October is associated with Halloween, pumpkins, fall weather, and candy. In the U.S., October is also National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. When thinking about breast cancer awareness, the color pink and the phrase, “fight like a girl,” comes to mind. Breast cancer is the second most common type of cancer for women, skin cancer is the most common. It is not unusual for people to know someone who has been diagnosed with breast cancer, but what are the actual statistics? 

The Numbers 

  • The average woman has a 1 in 8 chance of developing breast cancer. 
  • The chance that a woman will die of breast cancer is 1 in 39.  
  • 264,000 cases of breast cancer are diagnosed in women each year. 
  • 42,000 women are estimated to die of breast cancer each year.  


Breast Cancer in Men 

  • Although breast cancer is most commonly associated with women, it occurs in men too.
  • According to the CDC, “About 1 out of every 100 breast cancers diagnosed in the United States is found in a man.”
  • The most common kinds of breast cancer for men are the same found in women: invasive ductal carcinoma, invasive lobular carcinoma, and ductal carcinoma in situ.
  • The American Cancer Society estimates that 530 men in the United States will die from breast cancer in 2022. The lifetime risk of getting breast cancer as a man is 1 in 833. 


Breast Cancer in Different Races and Ethnicities 

  • Black women have the highest death from breast cancer. The American Cancer Society believes this is due to something called triple-negative breast cancer. Triple-negative breast cancer is where cancer cells do not have estrogen, progesterone, or the protein called HER2. In other words, these cancer cells test negative on all three tests for the above. Triple-negative breast cancer grows and spreads faster and is often harder to treat. TNBC occurs in 1 in 5 Black women with breast cancer.  
  • Breast cancer mainly occurs in middle-aged and older women, usually around the age of 63. For Black women, breast cancer has a higher chance of developing before the age of 40 compared to white women.  
  • Meanwhile, American Indians and Alaska Natives have the lowest rates of developing breast cancer.
  • Asian/Pacific Islanders have the lowest death rate from breast cancer.  


Risk Factors 

  • With breast cancer, there are risk factors that you can change and factors that you cannot change.  
  • Risk factors that you cannot change include being born a female, getting older, race and ethnicity, having a family history of breast cancer, and more. 
  • Risk factors that you can change include drinking alcohol, being overweight, not having children, taking birth control, not being physically active, and more.  
  • There are inherited gene mutations that increase a woman’s risk of getting breast cancer. There is a higher risk of getting breast cancer if there is a genetic change to the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. 


Breast Cancer Screening 

Breast Cancer Screening is checking breasts for cancer before there are signs or symptoms of it. There are different tests for screening. The most common is a mammogram which is an x-ray of the breast. AFSPA’s Foreign Service Benefit Plan (FSBP) provides full coverage for mammograms in accordance with the United States Preventive Services Task Force. The USPSTF recommends that women who are 50 to 74 years old and are at average risk for breast cancer to get a mammogram every two years. 

FSBP also offers 3D breast tomosynthesis. 3D breast tomosynthesis is an imaging test that combines multiple breast x-rays to create a 3D picture of the breast. Clinical breast exams done by doctors or nurses are also another way to screen for breast cancer. You can also perform a breast self-exam and report any changes to your doctor.  

FSBP members who receive a breast cancer screening can earn a $25 wellness reward thorough our wellness rewards program. Learn more here. 

You can learn more about breast cancer by listening to our podcast AFSPA Talks during the month of October. Our first episode is with Melissa Wolf, MS, NP-C, AOCNP, an Assistant Medical Director for PinnacleCare. In this episode, she brings her expertise to provide an introduction to breast cancer: what do we mean when we say cancer, risk factors, early detection and prevention, treatment options, and when and how to get a second opinion. Listen to this episode here. 

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