Reframe the Statistics

As you conduct the research into your conventional, complementary, and alternative treatment options, you will invariably discover cancer recovery statistics that detail cancer incidence, mortality, and five-year survival rates. Do not let these statistics paralyze you.

Statistics measure populations. They can be interpreted in a great many ways. But statistics do not determine any individual case, including yours.

Let’s look squarely at the facts about breast cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute and the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, here’s what the numbers tell us:

The starting point: 9 in 10 women who are diagnosed with breast cancer will survive at least five years. Five years out from diagnosis is the standard “you are cured” milestone. Yes, we need to do better and there is much room for improvement. But look at your own situation and think, “I have a 90-percent chance of survival.” That’s good.

About 1 in 8 women in the United States will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. In the United States in 2020, an estimated 276,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women in the U.S., along with 48,530 new cases of non-invasive (in situ and/or fibrocystic disease of the breast)) breast cancer. U.S. deaths from breast cancer will be approximately 42,690 this year. (CDC.gov)

From 1999 to 2016, breast cancer incidence rates in the U.S. decreased by about 2% per year. This decrease is correlated most closely with the reduced use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) by women. HRT increased the incidence of breast cancer. Understand this point: the decrease in incidence was due to ceasing the use of conventional medicine, not correlated with more medicine. This recurring theme of less is more is an important point of understanding in the breast cancer journey.

The good news is that there are now nearly 3.8-million breast cancer survivors in the United States. You can be one of those.

Compared to African American women, white women are slightly more likely to develop breast cancer, but less likely to die of it. One possible reason is that African American women tend to have more aggressive tumors, although why this is the case is not known. Women of other ethnic backgrounds — Asian, Hispanic, and Native American — have a lower risk of developing and dying from breast cancer than either whites or African Americans.

A woman’s risk of breast cancer approximately doubles if she has a first-degree relative (mother, sister, daughter) who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. About 25-percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer have a family history of breast cancer. Approximately 5 to 10-percent of breast cancers can be linked to gene mutations (abnormal changes) inherited from one’s mother or father. Mutations of the BRAC 1 and 2 genes are the most common. Women with these mutations have up to an 80-percent risk of developing breast cancer during their lifetime, and they are more likely to be diagnosed at a younger age, before menopause. An increased ovarian cancer risk is also associated with these genetic mutations.

This means that approximately 75-percent of breast cancers occur in women who have no family history of the disease. It is thought these cancers occur due to genetic abnormalities that happen as a result of the aging process and life in general, rather than inherited mutations. The most significant risk factors for breast cancer are gender, being a woman, and age, growing older.

No matter how difficult your diagnosis, even a recurrence, please realize that there is no type of breast cancer that does not have some rate of survival. This is a significant fact. It is also cause for reasonable hope. The question now becomes, “What can I do to maximize my chances of getting on the right side of these statistics?”

An Important Thing to Do

Re-frame the statistics. Keep your eye firmly affixed on becoming a survivor

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