October is breast cancer awareness month. I want to tell you in this post some information about breast cancer symptoms, diagnosis and treatments. I have worked in various areas of breast cancer research in the last 5 years, most notably my PhD is focused on understanding diabetic drugs in order to prevent breast cancer. It's an area close to my heart.
Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the UK. About 55,000 new cases are diagnosed every year and 7% of all cancer-related deaths can be attributed to breast cancer. There is some good news and bad news about breast cancer survival. The overall 5-year survival is around 86% but when you break this down by stage of the cancer type, this value falls dramatically for those with higher stage cancers. 5-year survival for women with stage IV cancer is approximately 15%. The survival rate has doubled in the last 40 years due to better preventative measures, better diagnosis and better therapies.
Breast cancer types:
I've already spoken a bit on the different cancer types and how tumours can be classed by their origin but also molecular differences ("What the Hell? - Cancer Part 2).
I've also talked before about risk factors, which are lifestyle or genetic factors that can increase or decrease the likelihood of developing a certain disease. There are a number of risk factors associated with breast cancer (some are in image 3).
Most women know the symptoms of breast cancer:
There are a number of ways a breast tumour is identified:
Treatment depends on the stage/grade of your tumour, the molecular subtype and the willingness of the patient. There are the standard treatment practices (1-3) but also more personalised therapies (4-5)
Prevention is key. You will hear my harp on about prevention is the cure to cancer but really it's one of the key areas we as individuals can look after for our own health. In fact it’s estimated that about 27% of all breast cancers could be prevented and there are a number of prevention techniques you can adopt
All rights to this video belong to Coppafeel!.org
And let's not forget the men here! Men can suffer with breast cancer. While only about 400 men are diagnosed each year that is still a significant number. Male breast cancer is quite similar to female breast cancer in terms of risks (though an additional risk factor is Klinefelter's syndrome), diagnosis, symptoms and treatments.
Finally I would like to talk to you about a charity which inspires me to keep doing the work I do. This charity was set up by a young woman who was diagnosed with breast cancer in her early 20's. Instead of wallowing in her diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer she decided to set up a charity to better educate young women to CHECK YOUR BREASTS! That charity was set up over 8 years ago and despite multiple metastatic tumours Kris is still alive and more vibrant than ever. This charity is called Coppafeel! (a genius name). If you have time please check out their website https://coppafeel.org/ and check out Kris's story (https://coppafeel.org/our-charity/kris-story/). A truly inspirational woman backed by the most incredible fundraisers and supporters. I haven't had the chance to work with coppafeel but it is one of the charities I would most like to get involved in.
For more information on any of the areas I've discussed visit:
My name is Caitriona and I am a PhD student at Imperial College London, UK.