Today is World Cancer Day – and a sobering thought that across the globe, the World Health Organisation considers 84 million people at risk of dying from a cancer between 2005-2015 if further intervention and vaccinations are not developed. From the research desk of Cancer Research UK comes the chilling news that one in eight women are now deemed at risk of developing a Breast Cancer at some point over their lifetime – as opposed to the previous one in nine – eponymous to this blog. The charity’s figures show that reported cases of breast cancer in the UK has increased by 3.5% in 10 years, from 42,400 in 1999 to 47,700 in 2008.
So what is going on? Television and media reports have been replete with messages around obesity, alcohol misuse and indeed moderate alcohol consumption, lack of exercise and a variety of other ‘lifestyle’ issues which are contributing to the rise. Whilst wanting to support efforts of all women (and indeed men) in eating sensibly, exercising appropriately and taking care with their alcohol consumption, these are general health messages with powerful impacts on other major killers, including heart disease – which disease is also being noted to day in Wearing Red day . You would have thought that somebody somewhere would have noted that Cancer and Heart Disease day together might be something of a coronary and carcinogenic overload.
That apart what is going on with the perceived rise in risk of Breast Cancer occurrence? Well just maybe the enhanced reporting procedures which have been cascaded down from Primary Care Trusts, (currently being collapsed) to General Practitioners with immediate referrals to specialist Breast Clinics up and down the country, might have something to do with it.
When I reported with a Breast lump to my GP last year – it was a matter of days, not weeks, which saw me being reviewed in a specialist breast clinic, a tumour diagnosed through ultra sound, mammogram and on the spot biopsy. Within a fortnight I was under the surgeon’s knife receiving my own part of the transformed services which are currently saving two out of three women’s lives for the next twenty years.
With the up-coming reforms into the National Health Service before Parliament at present it is essential that the clear gains in early detection (7 out of 10 reported breast tumours emerging from Women self-examining), reporting, diagnosis and efficient treatment continues. Furthermore that research into the internal causes of Breast Cancer (along with all the other Cancers which affect us) is properly ring fenced and focussed on enhancing early detection, promoting potential cures, and alleviating the negative impacts of some of today’s current treatments – including chemotherapies and radiotherapy – through more targeted medication and effective intervention.
So a rise in the risk of Breast Cancer to one in eight women in the UK is potentially a promising statistic – it could be telling us that more women are being detected in the UK than previously, who up until the new regimen of GP referral to specialised clinics, fell through the net of staged mammograms and their doctor’s waiting room. This week-end the best we can do to continue to drive down Breast Cancer deaths is to get a regular self examination culture embedded in ourselves, our work colleagues and friends, and out into the female population at large – (though each year a small percentage of men are diagnosed with cancers in their man-boobs, which should not be forgotten). Breast Cancer Research has developed an excellent chart on self examination and things to be aware of in your breasts which I consider should be on every Jane’s room in the country. Yes in Motorway service stations, department stores, supermarket rest rooms and Libraries. It could quite literally save lives.