October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

On average, approximately 75 Canadians will be diagnosed with breast cancer every single day. While more are surviving a breast cancer diagnosis than ever before, it’s still the most common cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death among Canadian women.

Men can also be at risk of developing breast cancer. Male breast cancer is rare as less than 1 percent of all breast cancers occur in men. Each year in Canada, approximately 220 men will be diagnosed, and 60 men will die from the disease.

While breast cancer continues to be a devastating diagnosis for anyone, incredible progress is being made in breast cancer research.

The female breast cancer death rate has dropped by nearly half

Since the female breast cancer death rate peaked in 1986, it has dropped by an estimated 48%. With increased awareness surrounding the importance of a mammography and better screening practices, more Canadians with breast cancer are being diagnosed earlier – often before any symptoms develop. This means the chances of successful treatment are better. Progress in cancer research has also helped improve treatment and management options for individuals living with breast cancer.

A healthy lifestyle can help reduce the risk of developing breast cancer

A Canadian Cancer Society-funded study has found that about 28% of breast cancer cases in women can be prevented through healthy living and policies that protect the health of Canadians. Some key ways to reduce breast cancer risk are living smoke-free, being active, sitting less, having a healthy body weight, limiting alcohol and eating well. The study also found that about 7,000 breast cancer cases could have been prevented in 2015.

Some patients can be spared the toxic effects of chemotherapy

A clinical trial funded in part by the Canadian Cancer Society found that most women with early-stage breast cancer do not need chemotherapy in addition to hormone therapy. This means that these women will be spared from the toxic side effects that can come with chemotherapy such as nausea, vomiting and severe fatigue. Best of all, this will not affect their chances of staying cancer-free.

More treatment options for those living with metastatic breast cancer

Metastatic or stage 4 breast cancer is breast cancer that has spread to other parts of the body. Although less than 5% of women are diagnosed at stage 4, 20-30% of women who are initially diagnosed with earlier stage breast cancer will go on to develop metastatic breast cancer. And with the majority of deaths related to breast cancer caused by cancer that has spread, there’s an urgent need for innovative new treatments to target this disease.

In collaboration with Stand Up To Cancer Canada (SU2C Canada) and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), clinical trials are underway to find new ways of treating metastatic breast cancer. By developing new treatment options, this project aims to stop cancer cells from becoming aggressive and spreading to other organs – helping those living with metastatic breast cancer live longer and have a better quality of life.


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