According to The American Cancer Society, the chance of a woman having invasive breast cancer during her lifetime is about 1 in 8. The chance of dying from breast cancer is about 1 in 36. They also predicted there to be approximately 40,000 deaths from breast cancer in 2o14.
These numbers are scary. As the daughter of a breast cancer survivor, and a woman with a family history of the disease, the presence of these statistics looming around the internet are all the more frightening. My first thought is, increased dissemination of more accessible breast cancer awareness education is so so so important. Yet, I am also wondering, why is no one talking about the fact that treatment is SO expensive?
Though the several organizations that promote breast cancer awareness provide vital information about prevention and treatment (usually in the form of statistical pie charts or boob diagrams), rarely can you find information about financial costs. The expense of the necessary hormonal treatment used after surgery lasts a standard five years and can cost between $1,200 to $2,300 a year. It would be ignorant to assume that the majority of women diagnosed with breast cancer, or even those who are genetically more likely to get the disease, can afford this kind of treatment. Where does one turn when survival is financially unattainable? This is a huge problem, so I went searching for some answers!
Finally, today I stumbled upon an article in the Op-Ed section of the New York Times, that finally felt like a glimmer of pink hope that I could hold on to. This article, written by Michelle Holmes and Wendy Chen, physicians and faculty members at Harvard Medical School, proffers the possibility of accessing treatment via your medicine cabinet. Asprin, a generic drug one pops into their mouth after a long night of partying, may have all the answers - including one for the money question.
In 2012, during a clinical trial looking at using aspirin to prevent heart disease, British researchers found that the drug might also possibly lower the risk of breast cancer death. The authors of the article suggest that, in the U.S., with the right kind of funding, researchers could further the findings with a more narrow focus on preventing breast cancer specifically.
"Aspirin was originally derived from willow bark, which has been used as a painkiller since the time of Hippocrates. We don’t know exactly why it appears to work in fighting cancer. Aspirin reduces inflammation, and that may play a role in inhibiting the growth of tumors — perhaps by slowing the development of new blood vessels that nourish them, or by fighting old cells that keep growing when they should be dying off. It may also inhibit estrogen production, and we know that estrogen fuels the growth of most (but not all) breast cancers."
If the researchers could prove that aspirin was an effective treatment in a clinical trial, the results would not only be generally pivotal, but it would also finally yield an accessible, cost-efficient option for the low-income patients deprived of any treatment at all. Also, aspirin’s minimal cost would make it available across the globe!
I don't know about you, but I like the sound of these words more than any of the numbers I have seen.