Every October, the color pink seemingly takes over the nation, as Breast Cancer Awareness Month hits its stride. But behind the hue is a comprehensive databank of statistics and facts detailing the true impact of breast cancer in the U.S. and California – as well as Santa Barbara County.
Every year, the American Cancer Society publishes a comprehensive document on California Cancer Facts and Figures, which breaks down occurrences, new cases, deaths, risk factors and more. The compilation is a collaboration of the American Cancer Society, Inc., the California Division and the California Cancer Registry of the California Department of Public Health.
Having the knowledge of the numbers, as well as risk factors and influences, is critical, given that cancer is the second-leading cause of death in California, exceeded only by heart disease. Cancer accounts for nearly 1 of every 4 deaths in California. In 2017, the report notes that an estimated 59,400 Californians will die from cancer.
But some statistics are showing improvements. The document notes that the female breast cancer incidence rate in California has decreased by 10 percent and the mortality rate has decreased by 37 percent from 1988 to 2014.
“We continue to observe promising trends in the steady decline in cancer incidence and death rates,” the report states.
With October comes added attention to breast cancer, as opposed to cancer as a disease overall. For women, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer. In the U.S., an estimated one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime.
Each year, more than 252,710 women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with breast cancer and more than 40,500 will die from the disease, according to the American Cancer Society.
In California last year, there were 25,614 new cases of breast cancer diagnosed, with 4,427 deaths. In Santa Barbara County, the most recent statistics from 2014 indicate 89 new cases of breast cancer and 51 deaths that year.
According to the American Cancer Society, the vast majority of breast cancers begin in the parts of the breast tissue that are made up of glands for milk production, called lobules, and ducts that connect the lobules to the nipple. The remainder of the breast is made up of fatty, connective and lymphatic tissues.
Breast cancer is typically detected either during a screening examination or after a lump is noticed.
Cancer organizations note that breast cancer typically produces no symptoms when the tumor is small and most easily treated. That means it’s particularly important for women to follow screening guidelines for detecting breast cancer at an early stage.
Women should undergo regular screening mammograms starting at age 45. Women ages 45 to 54 should be screened annually, according to national guidelines. Women age 55 and older should be screened every two years, or be allowed annual screening if preferred.
As a way to reduce an increase in breast cancer rates, the state Department of Public Health created “Every Woman Counts,” to provide free clinical breast exams, mammograms, pelvic exams and Pap tests to underserved women in California. The program is now part of the Department of Health Care Service’s Cancer Detection and Treatment Branch. To determine eligibility for free screening, women can call 1-800-511-2300. Assistance is available in English, Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, Vietnamese, and Korean.