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Breast Cancer UNawareness Month

Updated: Oct 16, 2023


October is recognized throughout the United States as Breast Cancer Awareness Month or more recently, Pink Month or Pink October. Whatever you choose to call it, the goal is to raise awareness of this complex disease that annually impacts one in eight women. While we often hear about fund raisers, walks, and pink ribbons, the movement is more than that. Following are seven facts you may not have known about breast cancer.


1) National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM) began in October 1985 as a commemoration to raise breast cancer awareness. The movement was started by public figure and breast cancer survivor, Betty Ford and backed by a partnership between the American Cancer Society and the pharmaceutical division of Imperial Chemical Industries (now part of AstraZeneca), a leading manufacturer of oncology drugs.


2) Black women are 40% more likely to die of breast cancer than white women and are twice as likely to die if they are over age 50. This is due in part by disparities in treatment. About a third of African American women reported experiencing racial discrimination at a health provider visit according to the American Cancer Society.


3) Subtypes. Breast cancer is the general term, but the subtypes determine treatment. Subtypes are based on the receptors, or small protein switches on cells that turn cancer growth on or off. During a biopsy, the receptors are tested and determined as:

  • Estrogen receptor (ER): If the breast cancer cells have estrogen receptors, the cancer cells are called ER positive (ER+). If the breast cancer cells do not have estrogen receptors, the cancer cells are called ER negative (ER-).

  • Progesterone receptor (PR): If the breast cancer cells have progesterone receptors, the cancer cells are called PR positive (PR+). If the breast cancer cells do not have progesterone receptors, the cancer cells are called PR negative (PR-).

  • Human epidermal growth factor type 2 receptor (HER2/neu or HER2): If the breast cancer cells have larger than normal amounts of HER2 receptors on their surface, the cancer cells are called HER2 positive (HER2+). If the breast cancer cells have a normal amount of HER2 on their surface, the cancer cells are called HER2 negative (HER2-). HER2+ breast cancer may grow more quickly and may be more likely to spread to other parts of the body.

  • Triple Positive: If the breast cancer cells have estrogen receptors, progesterone receptors, and a larger than normal amount of HER2 receptors, the cancer cells are called triple positive.

  • Triple Negative: If the breast cancer cells do not have estrogen receptors, progesterone receptors, or a larger than normal amount of HER2 receptors, the cancer cells are called triple negative.

4) Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is the rarest form of invasive breast cancer. Unlike other breast cancers, it is not hormone driven and accounts for 15% of all invasive breast cancer cases according to the Cleveland Clinic, one of the top ranked hospitals world-wide. TNBC is the most common type of breast cancer among Black and Hispanic women, but differs from other types of invasive breast cancer. It grows and spreads faster, has fewer treatment options than other breast cancer types and does not have a five year medicinal protocol like hormonal cancers. For example, A TNBC patient will not be prescribed Tamoxifen or other cancer medications for five years post treatment because TNBC is not hormone driven. Other than bi-annual oncology follow ups, there is no additional protocol.


5) Affects men. Breast cancer is typically thought of as a woman's issue, but it can happen to men, too. The percentage of men with breast cancer is smaller because the male breast has fewer lobules and ducts than the female breast. The ducts and lobules are generally where breast cancers are found. However, male and female humans are both born with breast tissue and therefore susceptible to breast cancer. According to the CDC, men account for one of every 100 breast cancers diagnosed in the United States.


6) Stress impact. Breast cancer, like any disease, is mentally, emotionally and physically stressful. However, the financial side effects can be equally debilitating. Financial toxicity is the monetary burden caused by the inability to work and maintain household financial responsibilities while in treatment. The financial strain of maintaining homes, families and upkeep of basic necessities may inhibit treatment. Many patients make the difficult choice to pay for ongoing treatment or household responsibilities. "Many researchers have found that chronic stress can wear down our body’s defenses, lower our immune response, and make us more vulnerable to all sicknesses, including cancer." Stanford Center for Integrative Medicine.


7) Induces other conditions. It is common for breast cancer patients to also have diabetes and heart issues before, during or after diagnosis. Breast cancer patients are at an increased risk for high blood pressure, which may lead to type 2 diabetes. In the reverse, heart issues and type 2 diabetes often contribute to developing cancer. The three conditions are common among breast cancer patients and may develop all at once or separately over time. Diabetes, high blood pressure and cancer are related to inflammation, blood sugar and obesity.


Many women and men who are diagnosed with breast cancer say they didn't notice any symptoms. This is why routine breast cancer screening by a health care provider is strongly advised. Self exams are not as effective and thorough as a professional diagnostic screening. Have you scheduled your routine exam?





VKNOX is a holistic nutrition wellness practitioner, certified behavior change specialist, certified fitness nutrition educator, lifestyle transformation coach and author. She is the creator of the R.A.W. Lifestyle System.

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