October Is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

by parnote & meemaw

In some way, everyone knows someone that breast cancer has touched. If not directly, then they know a friend, family member, loved one, co-worker, acquaintance, or a family member or friend of any of the aforementioned who has had to deal with breast cancer.

Breast cancer, like most cancers, is largely a genetic disorder. The genetic link is attributed to familial history or genetic mutations. However, certain environmental exposures, as well as the degenerative effects of aging, have been shown to increase the chances of developing breast cancer later in life. Thanks to early detection, the “cure” rate for breast cancer has gone up significantly. Treatment includes surgery, pharmacological intervention, chemotherapy and focused irradiation of the cancerous cells, either by themselves or in combination.

Here are a few facts about breast cancer in the United States, from breastcancer.org:

  1. About 1 in 8 U.S. women (just under 12%) will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime.
  2. In 2011, an estimated 230,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer were expected to be diagnosed in women in the U.S., along with 57,650 new cases of non-invasive (in situ) breast cancer.
  3. About 2,140 new cases of invasive breast cancer were expected to be diagnosed in men in 2011. A man’s lifetime risk of breast cancer is about 1 in 1,000.
  4. From 1999 to 2005, breast cancer incidence rates in the U.S. decreased by about 2% per year. The decrease was seen only in women aged 50 and older. One theory is that this decrease was partially due to the reduced use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) by women after the results of a large study called the Women’s Health Initiative were published in 2002. These results suggested a connection between HRT and increased breast cancer risk.
  5. About 39,520 women in the U.S. were expected to die in 2011 from breast cancer, though death rates have been decreasing since 1990 — especially in women under 50. These decreases are thought to be the result of treatment advances, earlier detection through screening, and increased awareness.
  6. For women in the U.S., breast cancer death rates are higher than those for any other cancer, besides lung cancer.
  7. Besides skin cancer, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among American women. Just under 30% of cancers in women are breast cancers.
  8. White women are slightly more likely to develop breast cancer than African-American women. However, in women under 45, breast cancer is more common in African-American women than white women. Overall, African-American women are more likely to die of breast cancer. Asian, Hispanic, and Native-American women have a lower risk of developing and dying from breast cancer.
  9. In 2011, there were more than 2.6 million breast cancer survivors in the US.
  10. 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 15% of women who get breast cancer have a family member diagnosed with it.
  11. About 5-10% of breast cancers can be linked to gene mutations (abnormal changes) inherited from one’s mother or father. Mutations of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are the most common. Women with these mutations have up to an 80% 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.
  12. In men, about 1 in 10 breast cancers are believed to be due to BRCA2 mutations, and even fewer cases to BRCA1 mutations.
  13. About 85% of breast cancers occur in women who have no family history of breast cancer. These occur due to genetic mutations that happen as a result of the aging process and life in general, rather than inherited mutations.
  14. The most significant risk factors for breast cancer are gender (being a woman) and age (growing older).

A Little Closer To Home

A few PCLinuxOS forum members shared their personal accounts of dealing with breast cancer, below.

anonymous forum member

Breast cancer is something I'm acutely aware of every single day; I lost my oldest daughter to it in 2003. She was only 39 years old and it was horrible to watch her suffering. It was one of many similar experiences that have convinced me not to fight too hard when my time comes.

My sister had it just a few years ago when she was in her mid-50s, too, but has survived very well after radical mastectomy surgery and all the chemo, etc. Her husband just lost his sweet corporate job recently and thankfully pre-existing conditions are no longer a factor in medical insurance because she still has quite the regimen of drugs to take, and I hope the cancer never comes back but if it does, at least they'll be able to afford insurance until he lands another job.

My grandson is also a survivor of a brain tumor, although it was not cancerous, thankfully. He was diagnosed with it when he was 2, had a mass the size of an orange removed from deep in his head when he was 6, and now at the age of 12 he just got accepted into a local school for the performing arts. He is a goof-off but he's still my hero!


I have a family friend whose wife had breast cancer several years ago, along with the awful mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. Another good friend’s wife had breast cancer about 20 years ago. Hers was better than most... having a “lump-ectomy” and taking chemo to make sure they got it all... she’s been cancer-free for a while.

Many different types of cancer exist, however. I also have a brother in remission and a brother-in-law in remission. They both had different types of lymphatic cancer. A nephew just finished radiation for throat cancer and the last scan was very good. A very wonderful family friend is still battling pancreatic cancer. We’re hoping for a good report after his next scan.

anonymous forum member

I have had three operations for skin cancer. The first one left me in the hospital for two months. The doctor cut out a large portion of my shoulder over the collarbone. He grafted skin from deceased donors onto the area, as well as a large slice he had taken out of my leg for the purpose. The second operation was for a malignant melanoma on my face. The VA hospital doctor had already operated to cut it out. She did not get it all, however. Now it was up to the doctor at the cancer clinic to finish the job. After two separate procedures the same day, the doctor announced he had removed all of the tumor. He had told me before the operation had ever been scheduled that I would need to undergo radiation treatments after the operation. My father had not long before died of lung cancer. In the end, it was the chemotherapy and radiation treatments that killed him. Although I had been reluctant to, I underwent radiation treatments over a three month period. I am still cancer free[a].


My uncle Harry was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer when he was in his early 60's.  Within six months he went from a handsome, well-built man to weighing 90 pounds before he passed.  I was able to visit him in Florida before he died, and it was so sad to see my favorite uncle accepting the inevitable.  Hopefully, one day it will not be inevitable.

I also may add that my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer.  It was quite the scare, but it was caught early.  With good luck and a great team of doctors, she had a minor procedure (lumpectomy?), and the cancer never came back.  87 and still going strong.


I was diagnosed with Prostate Cancer in 1998 and it was cured with radiation.

A couple of months ago I was found to have a large tumor in my bladder, My urologist said that at my age, 89, I could not survive an operation to remove the tumor. Since I had radiation for the Prostate Cancer they can not use radiation for the tumor. So far I have had 9 Chemo Therapy treatments. Last Tuesday I had a CT Scan. This Tuesday I will see the oncologist and find out if the Chemo has had any effect on the the tumor. and probably then have my 10th Chemo treatment.

My sister and brother both had cancer before they died and my father died of cancer at the age of 43.


About a year ago a friend and neighbor went to the Emergency Room after suffering stroke-like symptoms. He lost control of the left side of his body. They did x-rays of his brain and found a mass that turned out to be a malignant brain tumor. He has since lost the battle. He was 62.

Someone once said that "Life causes cancer". Despite the billions of dollars being spent, I'm not optimistic that medical science will ever win the war, at least in my lifetime. Then again, wars are won by winning battles and there have been battles won.

Find Out More About It

To help you find out more information about breast cancer or other types, check out these following resources:

Susan G. Komen For The Cure


American Cancer Society

National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health

While the resources listed above are national and international in their scope and reach, don’t forget to look for local resources. There are many local resources available, many right in your own backyard. They are merely an Internet search away, via your favorite search engine.

A heartfelt thanks goes to every forum member who shared his/her story about this devastating illness. We appreciate your discussion of a very sensitive subject, and hope that talking about it has, in some way, helped to ease your pain.