This Breast Cancer Awareness Month let’s unite to make a real impact. Spread the word about breast cancer on social media, get screened, and encourage others to do the same. Donate to support research and patient care, volunteer your time, and advocate for better policies. Together, we can save lives, support survivors, and work towards a future without breast cancer.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month is observed globally in October every year, including in Sweden. It aims to promote education on screening and prevention of the disease, which affects 2.3 million women worldwide. Raising awareness is vital because early detection through self-reporting and screening facilitates interventions when the cancer is most treatable.

Breast Cancer Statistics in Sweden

Breast cancer, the most common form of cancer among women in Sweden, results in approximately 8000 diagnosis every year, translating to 15 to 20 new cases every day (1), (2). Thanks to recent advancements in screening and effective new treatments, breast cancer prognosis is improving and approximately 8 out of 10 patients survive the disease. Detection and diagnosing methods are continuously evolving as shown in a recent study from Karolinska Insitutet using AI for breast cancer detection (3).

 

Risk factors for developing breast cancer

There are several risk factors associated with developing breast cancer (4). The two biggest risk factors are being assigned female at birth and older age. Most breast cancer are diagnosed in females after age 50. Other risk factors that cannot be changed include having a genetic mutation (BRCA1 and BRCA2), having period that started before 12 years old and menopause after 55, family history of breast and ovarian cancer and having dense breasts (4).

While it may seem daunting that some risk factors are beyond our control, there are also things that can be done to reduce the risk of breast cancer, for example:

  • Being physically active
  • Not being overweight or obese after menopause
  • Limiting alcohol consumption

It is also considered that having a first pregnancy before the age of 30, and breastfeeding may also reduce the risk of developing a breast cancer (4). By understanding which risk factors can be influenced and which cannot, we empower individuals to make informed choices and contribute to a healthier future.

 

Breast Cancer Screening Programs in Sweden

In Sweden, women aged 40-74, are offered a free screening every 2 years (5). The screening is in form of mammogram, which is an established technique for breast cancer detection. It is highly recommended for women to  schedule and maintain regular mammograms, says  Dr. László Tabár, a radiologist and oncologist from Falun, Sweden. He is known worldwide for his contributions in the field of mammography screening and he insists that “A woman whose breast cancer has been detected at screening gains on average 16.5 years of life” (6).

The importance of mammograms cannot be overestimated. According to the American Cancer Society, the 5-year relative survival rate for localized breast cancer (cancer that is not spread to other organs) is 99 % in 2022 (7). The 5-year relative survival rate compares women with the same type and stage of cancer to women in the overall population. That means that women with localized breast cancer are on average about 99 % as likely as women who don’t have cancer to live at least 5 years after being diagnosed.

Additionally, 76.5% of woman diagnosed with breast cancer were alive 10 years after diagnosis during the years 1995 to 2004. In comparison, from 1944 to 1954, only 25.1% of women diagnosed with any stage breast cancer survived for 10 years after diagnosis (8). That outcome is a result of combination of factors including better screening, advanced treatments and better coordination of care.

 

Breast Cancer Awareness Initiatives in Sweden

Breast cancer patients in Sweden have access to various support networks, organizations and resources. One of the key support organizations for cancer patients, including breast cancer, is the Cancer Foundation.  Another support organization is the patient association is the Swedish Breast Cancer Association– Rosa Bandet. In Sweden, the Swedish Cancer Society’s Rosa Bandet (Pink Ribbon) campaign celebrates its 20th anniversary (9). To acknowledge the anniversary, the pink ribbon is designed by 20 remarkable individuals from different parts of the country. These individuals stand out for their forward-thinking and for inspiring hope, much like cancer research itself. Moreover, the Crown Princess of Sweden is the patron of the campaign for a fifteen year in a row (10).

Another organization in Sweden is Vision Zero Cancer– a vision-driven initiative aiming to prevent cancer and reduce cancer-related deaths (11). It represents an effort to eliminate different types of cancer through various strategies, including lifestyle changes, early detection, access to healthcare, and cancer research. The goal is to reduce the burden of cancer and ultimately achieve a world with “zero” cancer cases.

In conclusion, Breast Cancer Awareness Month inspires a positive call to action, bringing people together to increase awareness and to encourage early detection, and provide vital support. Within Sweden’s healthcare landscape, where breast cancer still poses challenges, these collective efforts emphasize the importance of regular mammogram screenings. Sweden’s network of support organizations and initiatives showcases a united commitment to advancing research and fostering hope for a brighter future, where we have the power to decrease the risk of breast cancer through proactive choices and informed decisions.

 

If you have any worries or questions, consult with your physician to decide on the best clinical approach going forward. At NEM, we believe in taking a proactive approach to all aspects of your health.

 

Silviya Demerzhan, Ph.D.

Chief Scientific Officer, Nordic Executive Medicine
Medical review by: Dr. Mahir Vazda MD

References
  1. About breast cancer [Internet]. [cited 2023 Sep 29]. Available from: https://brostcancerforbundet.se/om-brostcancer/other-languages/english/
  2. Spotlight on Breast Cancer | Karolinska Institutet [Internet]. [cited 2023 Sep 29]. Available from: https://ki.se/en/research/spotlight-on-breast-cancer
  3. Dembrower K, Crippa A, Colón E, Eklund M, Strand F. Artificial intelligence for breast cancer detection in screening mammography in Sweden: a prospective, population-based, paired-reader, non-inferiority study. Lancet Digit Health. 2023 Oct 1;5(10):e703–11.
  4. CDCBreastCancer. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2023 [cited 2023 Oct 4]. What Are the Risk Factors for Breast Cancer? Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/breast/basic_info/risk_factors.htm
  5. 1177 [Internet]. [cited 2023 Sep 29]. Mammogram – breast screening. Available from: https://www.1177.se/other-languages/other-languages/undersokningarprover—andra-sprak/mammografi—andra-sprak/
  6. Sectra Medical [Internet]. [cited 2023 Sep 29]. The story of mammography screening in Sweden, and how the latest research shows it has halved breast cancer death in women. Available from: https://medical.sectra.com/resources/the-story-of-mammography-screening-in-sweden/
  7. Survival Rates for Breast Cancer [Internet]. [cited 2023 Oct 2]. Available from: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/types/breast-cancer/understanding-a-breast-cancer-diagnosis/breast-cancer-survival-rates.html
  8. Breast Cancer Survival Triples in Last 60 Years [Internet]. [cited 2023 Oct 2]. Available from: https://www.breastcancer.org/research-news/20100930
  9. Cancerfonden [Internet]. [cited 2023 Sep 29]. Om Rosa Bandet I Cancerfonden. Available from: https://www.cancerfonden.se/rosabandet/om-kampanjen
  10. Kronprinsessan beskyddare av Rosa Bandet [Internet]. [cited 2023 Oct 4]. Available from: https://www.kungahuset.se/arkiv/nyheter/2023-10-01-kronprinsessan-beskyddare-av–rosa-bandet
  11. Vision Zero Cancer [Internet]. [cited 2023 Oct 4]. Available from: https://visionzerocancer.com/