October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a time to raise awareness of the seriousness of breast cancer, screening and prevention, and research.
Some women wear pink to celebrate what has all been accomplished in breast cancer research, specifically in screening technology. Some feel grief for having lost a family member or friend to breast cancer. While others feel victory over the disease itself, having been diagnosed, treated and now in remission.
Dr. Brady Anderson is a Medical Oncologist with Cancer Care Manitoba, and works primarily with the Western Manitoba Cancer Care centre in Brandon. Dr. Anderson treats breast, gastrointestinal and thoracic tumors.
Though it might seem like there are more patients being diagnosed with breast cancer, Dr. Anderson says with our current population in Manitoba they expect approximately 900 women in a given year who are going to be diagnosed with breast cancer, and of those 900, 200 women will pass away from it. He notes this is the most common female cancer, and there is about 1% of males who will be diagnosed with breast cancer, but it is a rare occurrence.
With 1 in 8 women being diagnosed with breast cancer at some time in their life, regular screening is important especially with women over 50 years old.
"In Manitoba, our breast check program is for women with a general average risk for breast cancer between ages 50 to 74, and screening is recommended every other year," explains Dr. Anderson, "and that's for an average risk individual. The reason that the screening is targeted to that group is that that is the peek incidence of breast cancer, and for mammograms to be effective as a screening test they have to be relatively sensitive to pick up the breast cancers but we also don't want to pick up a whole lot of non-cancers as well. In younger women the rate of false positive screen tests is much higher. So, mammograms as a test are more effective in older women."
Dr. Anderson says being a woman, being over 50 years old and having a family history of breast cancer are the factors that create a higher risk.
Other factors that can help prevent breast cancer include obesity, eating an unhealthy diet, and lack of exercise, an alcohol intake.
"Beyond screening, which isn't going to prevent breast cancer but hopefully detect it at an early stage, where it's going to be much easier to treat and a really good chance of cure, the best evidence out there is maintaining a healthy weight," he says. "So, we know that excess body fat and obesity contribute to risk and that's likely a factor because of incrased estrogen with increased adipose tissue."
Dr. Anderson says eating a balanced diet with vegetables filling half the plate, and maintaining physical activity as these are all protective steps to take against breast cancer.
"And the one that often gets forgotten about is alcohol intake," he says. "So, limiting the amount of alcohol. There's no 'safe' amount of alcohol so less is better than more."
"And if you feel something that's not normal, you're not certain, bring it to someone's attention," he adds. "There are no silly questions. We'd much rather find it now than wait several months and have to deal with something more advanced and end up needing more treatment."
Dr. Anderson encourages all women over 50 to take advantage of the mobile screening van, or on-site screening sites across the province.
Please listen to the full interview with Dr. Brady Anderson below as he shares more information on breast cancer, risk factors, and screening.
To book your appointment call:
Brandon 204-578-2040 or toll free 1-855-952-4325
Winnipeg, Thompson, Morden, Winkler and all mobile appointments, call the toll-free number 1-855-952-4325
Do ask for when a mobile unit is in your area, or in close proximity for you to drive to.
One in eight women in Canada and 2.3 million women worldwide will be diagnosed with breast cancer each year.
Known best for its pink theme color, the month features a number of campaigns and programs, aiming at:
- supporting people diagnosed with breast cancer, including metastatic breast cancer
- educating people about breast cancer risk factors
- stressing the importance of regular screening, starting at age 40 or an age that’s appropriate for your personal breast cancer risk
- fundraising for breast cancer research
For more information on Breast Cancer awareness, research and screening, visit: Breast Cancer Awareness Month 2023
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