Mondays at work are usually never fun, especially when you find out that your close friend in her mid-40s has been diagnosed with Stage 2 invasive ductal carcinoma of the breast.  She had missed her regular mammogram last year.  It immediately took me back to July 2010, when my older sister, Ivy, passed away at the age of 53 after the recurrence of an aggressive breast tumor.  Two years prior, she had gone through chemotherapy, radiation treatments and a mastectomy with reconstruction and was doing well for approximately 12 months.  It made me wonder how medicine is faring in 2014 in the fight against breast cancer.

Recent figures show that more than 230,000 women were expected to develop invasive breast cancer in the past year, along with more than 2,200 cases in men.  One in eight women is expected to develop breast cancer in her lifetime.  Almost 40,000 women were expected to die last year from breast cancer. See U.S. breast cancer statistics

Fortunately, death rates for breast cancer have been decreasing since 1990.  However, African-American women have the poorest breast cancer survival rates, with Caucasian women having the highest incidence rates.  The lowest incidence rates are seen in Asian, Hispanic and Native-American populations.  See the American Cancer Society article.

The rates of new breast cancer by state show that New Hampshire has a higher rate per 100,000 population (133) as compared to the national average (122).  Fortunately, the mortality rate due to breast cancer is lower in the Granite State (21 per 100,000) compared to the national average (23).  See the Susan G. Komen statistics report

The diagnostic workup and treatment options are numerous, but are likely overwhelming to the average patient and family.  Tumor size, grade, type and stage.  Hormone receptor status, HER2/neu status, lymph node status.  Clinical trials, radiation, chemotherapy, hormone therapies, targeted therapies, mastectomy.  Post-operative rehabilitation, wigs.  Way too much information before lunch.  But information and knowledge are power, perhaps stronger than pink socks on football players in October.

So, tonight I started to give my friend some of that information.  So had her doctor a few days ago, but at the time, the words after “I think you have Stage 2 cancer” hadn’t been absorbed because of the shock and disbelief.  Hopefully, this time the outcome is better than back in 2010. It is time to don my pink bracelet again.

Regards,

Stuart J.  Glassman, MD

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