Breast Cancer Awareness


Breast Cancer History : Breast cancer has been known since ancient times. With no reliable treatments, and with surgical outcomes often fatal, women tended to conceal the possibility of breast cancer as long as possible. With the dramatic improvement in survival rates at the end of the 19th century—the radical mastectomy promoted by William Stewart Halsted raised long-term survival rates from 10% to 50%—efforts to educate women about the importance of early detection and prompt action were begun.

Early campaigns included the “Women’s Field Army”, run by the American Society for the Control of Cancer (the forerunner of the American Cancer Society) during the 1930s and 1940s. Explicitly using a military metaphor, they promoted early detection and prompt medical intervention as every woman’s duty in the war on cancer. In 1952, the first peer-to-peer support group, called Reach to Recovery, was formed. Later taken over by the American Cancer Society, it provided post-mastectomy, in-hospital visits from women who had survived breast cancer, who shared their own experiences, practical advice, and emotional support, but never medical information. This was the first program designed to promote restoration of a feminine appearance, e.g., through providing breast prostheses, as a goal.

Who said what about breast cancer :

Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM), also referred to in America as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM), is an annual international health campaign organized by major breast cancer charities every October to increase awareness of the disease and to raise funds for research into its cause, prevention, diagnosis, treatment and cure. The campaign also offers information and support to those affected by breast cancer.

A variety of events around the world are organized in October, including walks and runs, and the pink illumination of landmark buildings. In the United States, the National Football League promotes breast cancer awareness by incorporating pink on and off the field, and comic strip artists use pink on one day in October.

The National Race for the Cure

In October 1983 the Race for the Cure was held for the first time in Dallas, Texas, where 800 people participated. According to the organizers, by 2002 the number of participants reached 1.3 million and the event was held in over 100 US cities. The event is also being organized in several other parts of the world.

Breast Cancer Today

There are various two-day-long walks to raise money for breast cancer research institutes. Avon sponsors a 39-mile (60-km) walk. A walk in Atlanta offers varying lengths of up to 30 miles. Canada’s large “Weekend to End Breast Cancer” features a 60-km walk. St. Louis, MO offers a one-day-long breast cancer walk. This walk consists of three miles.

Susan G. Komen 3 Day ‘For the Cure’

This 60-mile fundraising walk, which is spread across two days, raises money for breast cancer research. This walk, which benefits Susan G. Komen for the Cure, occurs in several cities in the United States. The Breast Cancer 3-Day was previously sponsored and managed by Avon and is held in countries around the world.

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Many women who get chemotherapy to treat breast cancer say they have problems remembering, thinking, and concentrating during and after treatment. These problems are commonly called “chemo brain” or “chemo fog” — doctors call these issues “cognitive impairment” or “cognitive problems.” Some women may have trouble with:

  • learning new tasks
  • remembering names
  • paying attention and concentrating
  • finding the right words
  • multitasking
  • organizing thoughts
  • remembering where things are (keys, glasses, etc.)

An Australian study suggests that a web-based program called InSight, which is now sold as BrainHQ, can ease cognitive problems in people who’ve been treated for cancer.

The study was published online on Oct. 31, 2016 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. Read “Evaluation of a Web-Based Cognitive Rehabilitation Program in Cancer Survivors Reporting Cognitive Symptoms After Chemotherapy.”

The company that makes InSight/BrainHQ markets it for the general betterment of mental function, not as a treatment for illnesses or deficiencies.

The study involved 242 people who had been treated with chemotherapy for recently diagnosed cancer and who had reported having cognitive problems:

  • 95% of the people in the study were women
  • 89% of the people in the study had been diagnosed with breast cancer
  • 5% of the people in the study had been diagnosed with colorectal cancer

Before the study started, the researchers did a 30-minute consultation with each person in the study and gave them tips and strategies for coping with cognitive problems. The researchers also had the participants do a self-assessment of their cognitive function with a survey tool that asked about perceived cognitive problems, perceived cognitive abilities, the effect of any perceived cognitive problems on quality of life, and comments other people had made on the participants’ cognitive function.

The researchers randomly assigned the people to one of two treatments for the cognitive problems:

  • InSight/BrainHQ, which is a 15-week, online program made up of a series of mental exercises
  • standard care, which was determined by each person’s doctor

The researchers asked the participants to do self-assessments of their cognitive function immediately after the 15-week InSight/BrainHQ program was completed and then again 6 months later.

Compared to people who received standard care, people who used the InSight/BrainHQ program had about 25% to 30% fewer cognitive problems immediately after they finished the program and again at 6 months after finishing the program. This difference was statistically significant, which means that it was probably because of the online program and not just due to chance.

People who used the online program also were less anxious, less depressed, and had less fatigue immediately after finishing the program than people who received standard care. Still, this difference disappeared after 6 months.

There was no difference in quality of life between the two treatment groups immediately after the InSight/BrainHQ program was completed, but after 6 months, people who used the online program had better quality of life than people who received standard care.

“To date there has been a large unmet need for effective treatment options for cancer survivors experiencing cognitive symptoms after chemotherapy treatment,” the researchers wrote. “Previous research has shown cognitive rehabilitation strategies to be feasible, with preliminary evidence of efficacy. Our large randomized controlled trial adds weight to this evidence. …Importantly, there were also improvements in patient-reported outcomes, including quality of life, and reduction in stress, fatigue, and anxiety/depression. The program has the potential to provide a new treatment option for patients with cancer with cognitive symptoms, where previously none existed.”


“If we could identify patients who are at risk of cognitive impairment, we could intervene earlier, and possibly achieve even better results,” said Victoria Bray, a medical oncologist and Ph.D. candidate at the University of Sydney who was the lead author of the study. “We would also like to explore whether there is added benefit from combining cognitive training with physical exercise.”

While the results of this study are very encouraging, the study was small and it’s not clear how widely the results can be applied.

“There are a lot of these brain-training programs out there, and most of them are for older individuals who are trying to ward off age-related cognitive decline,” said Patricia Ganz, M.D., a medical oncologist at the University of California-Los Angeles and member of the Professional Advisory Board, in an interview. “They haven’t been shown to be all that effective.”

More research is needed to understand exactly how a program like InSight/BrainHQ can help ease chemo brain.

The good news is that most people who have memory and thinking problems during breast cancer treatment recover and are able to remember and think clearly after treatment is done. Still, a small number of people continue to have problems for a year or more after treatment ends.

If you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer and are having thinking and memory problems, there are things you can do to help yourself. You might want to check out the page on Memory Loss in our side effects section. You’ll find tips on:

  • managing memory challenges
  • keeping your mind alert
  • keeping track of things when you’re forgetful

Stay tuned to Research News for the latest information on chemo brain and its cause.

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Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October

The Breast Cancer Awareness Month, marked in countries across the world every October, helps to increase attention and support for the awareness, early detection and treatment as well as palliative care of this disease.

There are about 1.38 million new cases and 458 000 deaths from breast cancer each year (IARC Globocan, 2008). Breast cancer is by far the most common cancer in women worldwide, both in the developed and developing countries. In low- and middle-income countries the incidence has been rising up steadily in the last years due to increase in life expectancy, increase urbanization and adoption of western lifestyles.

Currently there is not sufficient knowledge on the causes of breast cancer, therefore, early detection of the disease remains the cornerstone of breast cancer control. When breast cancer is detected early, and if adequate diagnosis and treatment are available, there is a good chance that breast cancer can be cured. If detected late, however, curative treatment is often no longer an option. In such cases, palliative care to relief the suffering of patients and their families is needed.

The majority of deaths (269 000) occur in low- and middle-income countries, where most women with breast cancer are diagnosed in late stages due mainly to lack of awareness on early detection and barriers to health services. Maria’s story (see below) illustrates this dramatic situation common to thousands of women in resource constrained settings. A situation that can be reverted if adequate public health programmes are put in place.

WHO promotes comprehensive breast cancer control programmes as part of national cancer control plans. The recommended early detection strategies for low- and middle-income countries are awareness of early signs and symptoms and screening by clinical breast examination in demonstration areas. Mammography screening is very costly and is feasible only in countries with good health infrastructure that can afford a long-term programme.

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