October is National Breast Cancer Aware- ness Month, an annual event created
to raise awareness and funds for research into the cause, prevention and
treatment of breast cancer. Next to skin cancer, breast can- cer is the
most common cancer among American women, and next to lung cancer, the
deadliest. About one in eight (12%) women in the U.S. will develop invasive
breast cancer during their life- time. According to the American Cancer
Society (ACS), in 2016:
> About 246,660 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women.
> About 61,000 new cases of carcinoma in situ (CIS) will be diagnosed. (CIS
is noninvasive and is the earliest form of breast cancer.)
> About 40,450 women will die from breast cancer this year.
Thanks to early detection and improvements in treatment, millions of women
are now surviv- ing the disease. After increasing for more than 20 years,
breast cancer incidence rates in women be- gan decreasing in 2000 and
dropped by about 7% from 2002 to 2003. This large decrease, accord- ing
to the ACS, was thought to be because fewer women used hormone therapy
after menopause following the results of the Women’s Health Ini-
tiative, published in 2002. This study linked using hormone therapy to
an increased risk of breast cancer and heart diseases.
Death rates from breast cancer also have been dropping since 1989, with
larger decreases in women younger than 50. These decreases are be- lieved
to be the result of finding breast cancer ear- lier through screening
and increased awareness, as well as better treatments. At this time there
are more than 2.8 million breast cancer survivors in the United States.
The Breast Cancer Awareness Month cam- paign was established in 1985 as
a partnership between the ACS and Imperial Chemicals, a company that made
several anticancer medica- tions. The emblematic pink ribbon was created
in 1992 by Evelyn Lauder—Estée Lauder senior vice president
and a breast cancer survivor—and
Self magazine. The Susan G. Komen Foundation distributed millions at its events
that year. But the first breast cancer ribbon was actually conceived by
68-year-old Charlotte Haley, whose sister, daughter and granddaughter
had all battled the disease. It was peach.
Today the battle against breast cancer con- tinues at Torrance Memorial’s
Vasek and Anna Maria Polak Breast Diagnostic Center. Vasek Polak was a
Czech immigrant who fled fascist Czechoslovakia in 1948. With help from
Dr. Ferry Porsche, Vasek eventually started a success- ful German auto
dealership in the South Bay and was the first in the country to deal exclusively
in Porsches. Vasek donated $1.7 million in cash and property to the Center,
as a way to honor his wife and give back to the community he loved. Dona-
tions from his foundation have now reached a to- tal of about $15 million.
One of the founders of the Center is board- certified radiologist Patricia
Sacks, MD, who has been practicing at Torrance Memorial for 35 years.
“The Center has always been at the cutting edge of diagnosis,”
says Dr. Sacks, who is now medical director of the Polak Breast Diagnosis