Breast cancer is the most common invasive cancer affecting women in New Zealand. Approximately eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer each day and more than 600 will probably die this year.
Breast cancer can occur at any age. It is more common in women over 60 but approximately 30% of women diagnosed are aged under 50. Men can also develop breast cancer, although this is rare. Approximately 20 men are diagnosed with breast cancer each year in New Zealand.
There’s a good chance you know someone who has been affected by breast cancer and therefore know how vital continued research is if we are to improve on the current detection, treatment and survival rates. The New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation (NZBCF) advises that at the moment, 92 out of every 100 women who have breast cancer detected by a regular mammogram will live for more than 10 years post-diagnosis. That number drops to 75 out of 100 if the first sign of the cancer is the detection of a lump.
October each year is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It’s an annual international health campaign organized by major breast cancer charities around the world to increase awareness of the disease and to raise funds for research into its cause, prevention, diagnosis, treatment and cure.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month provides an opportunity for us all to focus on breast cancer and its impact on those affected by the disease in our community. While most people are aware of breast cancer, many forget to take the steps to have a plan to detect the disease in its early stages and encourage others to do the same.
Think Pink for breast cancer
October is the month to unite for the cause and consider organizing your own fund-raiser or supporting one of the many organized activities in your area. The NZBCF encourages businesses to go pink for a day at some point during the month, when all workers can come together to show their support for the many thousands of women affected by this insidious cancer.
Paint the town Pink
The NZBCF website is full of ideas for fund-raising events which can be as big or small, as simple or as creative as you want it to be. Here are some examples:
Girls’ Night In – Get your girlfriends together for a night to celebrate friendships that matter for a cause that matters. It can be big, small, lavish or low key.
Wear Pink – Any workplace could always be a bit more colourful and pink is perfect. Ask everyone to wear pink to work on a specific day and make a donation.
Pink Breakfast – Start everyone’s day off right and hold a pink breakfast at your office.
Pink Luncheon or BBQ – Get all your family and friends together, you could have a BBQ in your backyard or pink-themed food.
Pink Morning Tea – Gather your colleagues, friends, family together for a pink morning tea, you could even have a bake-off.
Or come up with your own fundraiser idea. You could hold a raffle, dye your hair pink, turn part of your community pink – the options are endless. Be as creative as you can!
Check out the NZBCF’s A – Z of fundraising ideas for some further inspiration.
What causes breast cancer
The exact cause of breast cancer is unknown, but there are factors that increase the risk of developing this disease:
- Increasing age
- Family history – having several close relatives, like a mother, sister or daughter diagnosed with breast cancer from either the mother’s or father’s side of the family
- Inheritance of mutations in the genes BRCA2, BRCA1 and CHEK2
- Exposure to female hormones (natural and administered)
- If you have had breast cancer before or have had certain breast conditions such as atypical ductal hyperplasia, ductal carcinoma in situ or lobular carcinoma in situ
- Obesity (poor diet and inadequate exercise) and
- Excess alcohol consumption
Having some of these risk factors does not mean that you will develop breast cancer and many women with breast cancer have no known risk factors, aside from getting older.
Early detection vital
Women of all ages should be familiar with the normal look and feel of their breasts and if there is any change, consult their doctor immediately. Take the time to find out what you need to know about breast awareness and share this important information with your family, friends and colleagues.
Free mammographic screening every two years is available for women with no symptoms, from 45-69 years, through the national screening programme, BreastScreen Aotearoa – Freephone 0800 270 200 to enrol.