Monday, October 6, 2014


Here's a great soundbite.  Another way of instilling fear rather than speaking truth and educating.  One in Eight.

It has been stated that more women than not, OVER-estimate their risk of developing breast cancer.  I've seen this in enough publications for me to realize it may be an area that could use a bit of clarification.  Thus, another #FACTober.

I know what it is like to fall on the short side of a statistic.  To be completely honest, I am not a fan of statistics and soundbites. Recently, I was involved in a conversation with someone whose area of expertise is statistics.  "I can make numbers look however you want them to look."  This was someone I hold in high esteem.  Our conversation was more about validating my skepticism rather then selling her soul.

Beyond that, I know too many who fell on the short side; women diagnosed with breast cancer in their 20's and 30's which is a statistical anomaly.  In 2006 when I was in the three month process of being diagnosed, I pulled the short straw every time a doctor quoted a statistical probability.  At least, however, I was not being misled when I was provided with the statistics. "Less than 10% of the time..... " and yep, I was in the 10% so I get it.

The statistics I have displayed below are for women with no known risk factors.  I did have a risk factor as my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer in her 40's.  SHE was one in 69 when diagnosed having had no prior risk factors.  As a result, this chart would not apply to me.  However, I was STILL not "One in Eight" when I was diagnosed.  You see why I do not like statistics?  You really need to understand what you are looking at and whose agenda is being pushed.  I don't know how much my mom's diagnosis changed my chances.  And, really when you are the ONE, it simply sucks because it does and yes, someone is going to be the ONE.

One in eight is a good springboard for a fundraising campaign.  It makes for a great way to terrorize those who do not understand that the number applies across your entire lifetime and it increases with age.  As you are seated around your table with eight family members of different generations or eight close friends, don't try to figure out who, unless you also incorporate WHEN into the equation.

To illustrate, let's pretend I am a 71 year old woman.  I am one in eight.  Yes, accurate.  Statistically and completely accurate statement.

As for my family members......

My sister is in her 60's
My older daughter is in her 50's
My younger daughter is in her 40's
My niece is in her 30's
My granddaughter is in her 20's

Not ONE of these relatives is at that statistical One in Eight.  Not Yet.  Just Me.  Grandma.  Put eight  women who are older than 70 around the same table, and there's your one in eight.

Where are the rest?  Well, let's see.  According to the American Cancer Society and Dr. Susan Love, here are the facts:

My sister in her 60's?
1 in 29
My older daughter in her 50's?
1 in 42
My younger daughter in her 40's?
1 in 69
My niece in her 30's?
1 in 233
My granddaughter in her 20's?
1 in 2000

NOTE and this is important: these are the most recent figures I could find.  In my world, it does seem like the diagnoses are younger and younger but without the data to back my observation, I've chosen to stick with the facts as they are presently reported.

NOTE and this is most important.  When the one is you, it doesn't matter if it's one a bazillion.  One is the loneliest number unless it's a winning lotto ticket.  Breast cancer doesn't qualify. 

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  1. The other important thing to know about 1 in 8 is that it refers to invasive breast cancer. It does not include Stage 0. And yes, it sucks to be the the 1 in 69. I write similar informational pieces for my blog, but in this case I think I'll just share. Thanks, AM. Once again you provide accurate and timely facts.

  2. Hi, AnneMarie. I was in the 1 in 233 and I was also in the 10% for chance of a local recurrence. I suppose one way to look at this is that these numbers simply reflect that we don't really know very much at all about the factors that increase the risk of breast cancer by more than a small amount (other than inherited factors.) One of many areas where much more research is needed!

  3. I've written about this too, given that I was 1 in 233. I also drew the short straw in being HER2 positive (estrogen and progesterone negative, too), and being in that small group of women for whom mammograms fail. So while I hate the manipulative cry of 1 in 8, I am not overly fond of the push back either. At times, I've found the way the soundbites about all the over-screening, over this and that to be dismissive. Thank you for writing this post in a non-dismissive way. This is a topic that bothers me greatly.

  4. Great explanation. The risk of getting invasive ovarian cancer is 1in 73.


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