Breast cancer remains a serious condition, affecting one in twelve women sometime in their lifetime. But, fortunately, it is no longer typically life threatening or permanently scarring.
Breast cancer, like all cancers, were once very mysterious. While much remains unknown and an area of active research, the disease itself is fairly well understood. The underlying causes are still uncertain in some cases, but the manner in which it spreads and acts is much better known today.
The risks of breast cancer - who gets it, the pros and cons of different treatments, survival rates and more - are also much better quantified.
While many claims are overblown, the effects of diet are becoming clearer. Many questions remain, but low estrogen producing diets and lifestyles are strongly indicated as beneficial. Low fat diets contribute to that as does regular exercise.
Early detection and diagnosis has reached the stage where as few as 50 clumped cancer cells can be identified. Chemical tests for early detection are becoming cheaper and more sophisticated. Ultrasound is becoming more common. Treatments now range from the traditional lumpectomy or mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation to more advanced hormone treatments.
Even with all the innovation, though, self-examination remains one of the best practices. It is in the individual's control and makes possible ferreting out anything requiring further investigation by more advanced methods. Mammograms remain a low cost, low risk and low discomfort method of detecting tumors.
Recovery is quicker and fewer recurrences are seen, thanks to more precise diagnosis and treatment. Computer aided analysis in the form of digital mammography makes reviewing test results much more accurate than in years past.
Where, tragically, a woman or man has contracted breast cancer and requires surgery, improved reconstructive techniques have lessened the harm. The FDA has recently taken silicon implants off the forbidden list. Implantation and plastic surgery in general have become less onerous. Patients are now often out of the hospital the same day as the surgery.
It's commonplace today for nearly 100% of those who receive early diagnosis and treatment, while the breast cancer is still in Stage 0 or Stage I, to live longer than five years. Many never have any recurrence at all and are not bothered with breast cancer the rest of their lives.
This once almost invariably fatal disease hasn't been reduced to the level of a mere annoyance. It remains a serious condition requiring careful consideration of all options. But thanks to modern medicine, while breast cancer once killed almost all its victims, individuals now typically enjoy a cancer free life after treatment.