Bad news: More Florida women getting breast cancer.
Good news: Death rate now among nation’s lowest.
When I scanned the first sentence of her Facebook post, I thought at first that it was just another attempt to raise awareness for a worthy cause that would eventually ask me to do my part in the fight by sharing the post with others.
“I have breast cancer,” it said.
In the paragraphs that followed, my friend explained how she had known for a week that the two-centimeter lump she found last month was malignant. She then talked about the uncertainty, the fear and the battle ahead, and how she planned to kick cancer’s, um, rear end.
It’s an all too familiar post. In the past few months, my pastor’s wife made a similar announcement on Facebook. Last week, a former colleague who survived breast cancer 12 years ago told me she is having another biopsy.
It’s no wonder we are seeing more of these posts. According to statewide figures from the Florida Department of Health, the breast cancer incident rate increased from 137.6 to 161.7 per 100,000 women between 2006 and 2016.
In 2016 alone, doctors diagnosed 16,721 new cases of breast cancer among women. Last year, 2,955 women died from breast cancer. That translates to a death rate of 18.5 per 100,000 women.
In 2018, Glades County topped the list with a death rate of 41.9 per 100,000 people, though deaths totaled five. Other counties with high rates included Holmes, Walton, Franklin, Wakulla, Dixie, Gilchrist, Lafayette, Marion, Citrus, Pasco, Nassau, Brevard, Okeechobee and Hendry. Counties reporting the lowest rates were Calhoun, Liberty and Washington, all of which reported no deaths.
Nationally, the good news is that Florida is among the states with the lowest death rates. After peaking in 1999 and 2000 at 24.4 deaths per 100,000, the rate has decreased, with 19.7 in 2016, according to the latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Though researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville say a vaccine could be available in eight years, the best ways to prevent breast cancer right now is to adopt a healthy lifestyle and get regular screenings to ensure early detection.
So, we’ll continue to wear our pink, participate in three-day walks, and support our friends who make those heartbreaking social media announcements as much as we possibly can.
We’ll also perform regular self exams and screening mammograms as soon as they’re due. No procrastination. Taking care of ourselves is critical, especially if we are taking care of others. Thankfully, we have help in that endeavor.
To make sure every woman is able to get a screening, the Florida Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program provides free or low-cost mammograms to women who are residents of Florida, 50-64 with no insurance and low income. To see if you qualify, call your county Health Department.