Breast Cancer Awareness Month began in October 1985 as a partnership between the American Cancer Society and pharmaceutical corporation Imperial Chemical Industries. Betty Ford, the former First Lady and wife of former President Gerald Ford, survived breast cancer and used her influence to publicize the health campaign at its inception. In 1993, Evelyn Lauder of Estée Lauder popularized the pink ribbon synonymous with Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Memorializing people lost to breast cancer and honoring breast cancer survivors with races for the cure, pink NFL uniforms, and pink buildings is a special part of the month. But the awareness is never so keen than when campaigns call early breast cancer screenings as the best way to fight the disease.
Breast cancer can affect anyone, although people born female develop breast cancer more frequently. People born male, trans women, and trans men can also develop breast cancer and should get screened too.
For average-risk women ages 25-39 (women without a lifetime risk due to family history, prior thoracic radiation therapy, or BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 genetic predispositions), get a clinical breast exam once every one to three years. For average-risk women over 40, get a mammogram and clinical breast examination every year.
Breast cancer screenings give clinicians the possibility to diagnose the cancer at earlier stages before it spreads throughout the body. When the cancer is localized to the breast only, the chance of survival is 99% based on a 5-year relative survival rate according to the American Cancer Society. When the cancer is regional and has spread to only nearby structures or lymph nodes, the chance of survival is 86%, and when the cancer has spread to distant parts of the body outside of the breast, like lungs or liver, the chance of survival is 28%. So, it is important to get screened as regularly as recommended for you.
According to research conducted at a medical clinic in the Netherlands between 1972 and 2016, studies show that trans women on hormone replacement therapy are at a higher risk for breast cancer than the general male population, but at a lower risk than the general female population. Trans men are at a lower risk for breast cancer than the general female population. The risk for breast cancer in transgender people is low, although people undergoing hormone replacement therapy should receive screening.
Trans women should receive mammograms every two years after the age of 50 and 5-10 years of hormonal therapy. These recommendations minimize missed diagnoses, over-screening, and any unnecessary follow-ups, emotional distress, or biopsies.
Preidt, R. (2019, May 15). Trans women on hormones have more breast cancer. WebMD. Retrieved October 11, 2021, from https://www.webmd.com/breast-cancer/news/20190515/trans-women-on-hormones-have-more–breast-cancer.
Survival rates for breast cancer. American Cancer Society. (n.d.). Retrieved October 11, 2021, from https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer/understanding-a-breast-cancer-diagnosis/breast-cancer-survival-rates.html.
Screening for breast cancer in transgender women. Screening for breast cancer in transgender women | Gender Affirming Health Program. (2016, June 17). Retrieved October 11, 2021, from https://transcare.ucsf.edu/guidelines/breast-cancer-women.