October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, when pink ribbons remind women to schedule their mammograms and honor those who have died from or survived breast cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, one in eight American women (12.3%) will develop invasive breast cancer during her lifetime.
This year, breast cancer will be the most common cancer in women, with more than 232,000 new cases diagnosed. The impact of a cancer diagnosis is tremendous for patients and their families. Chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery take their toll, and posttreatment complications, such as lymphedema and fatigue, can affect quality of life long after treatment ends. And cancer recurrence is an ongoing fear for the approximately 2.8 million breast cancer survivors in the United States. The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates that breast cancer will recur in 10% to 20% of survivors.
Breast cancer isn’t as fatal as other cancers in women (eg, lung and colon). Survival rates are relatively high (ranging from 72% to 100%) when the cancer is caught before it metastasizes, according to the ACS. Therefore, chances are at some point in your work, you’ll encounter female clients who have been diagnosed with or who have survived breast cancer. A cancer diagnosis that hits close to home for the client or a family member or good friend generally catalyzes lifestyle changes—eating better, exercising, or quitting smoking. For those not personally affected by cancer, increased media exposure of genetic testing may have generated a mindset that lifestyle factors don’t matter if you’ve got the breast cancer gene.
From October 2014 Issue, Vol. 16 No. 10 P. 80; by Jennifer Van Pelt, MA. Reprinted with permission.