Casey DeSantis, the 41-year-old wife of Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, has been diagnosed with breast cancer. "I am saddened to report that Florida’s esteemed First Lady and my beloved wife has been diagnosed with breast cancer," the Republican governor said in a statement shared first with Fox News on Monday.
The mother of three is facing “the most difficult test of her life,” said Gov. DeSantis, who added that his wife is a “true fighter, and she will never, never, never give up.”
DeSantis’ diagnosis, and the fact that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, highlights the importance of prevention, screening, and early detection of this devastating disease. While the details of DeSantis’ case are not known ― she may have only recently become a candidate for mammogram (see screening guidelines below) ― all women should discuss their personal risks and prevention strategies with their doctor.
Dr. Herman Kattlove, the former spokesperson for the American Cancer Society and an oncologist in Beverly Hills, told Newsmax: "It is unusual for a 41-year-old woman to develop breast cancer. Like most cancers, it is more common in older people. She may have had a family history of breast cancer or another risk factor," he said of DeSantis' diagnosis. "As always, early detection is key in having a better outcome, so hopefully her doctors caught it in its earliest stages."
Last year during COVID-19 important cancer screenings, such as mammograms to detect breast cancer, were put on hold. This prevented catching the disease in a timely manner for many women, says STAT News.
According to the National Breast Cancer Coalition, next to skin cancer, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women in the U.S. It is estimated that there will be 281,550 new cases of invasive breast cancer in women, 2,650 cases in men, and an additional 49,290 cases of ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) in women in 2021. About 43,600 women will die from breast cancer. Early detection is critical to the outcome of this disease, say experts.
The American Cancer Society says that many women have no symptoms of breast cancer so regular screening is important. For women with an average risk, the ACS recommends optional screenings with mammograms — low-dose x-rays of the breast ― every year for women between the ages of 40 and 44. Women 45 to 54 should get annual mammograms and those who are 55 and older can switch to getting mammograms every two years.
For those who are at high risk for breast cancer, an annual mammogram and breast MRI is recommended. These women include those who have a known BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation, have a first-degree relative, such as a parent, sibling, or child with the gene mutations, or those who have had radiation therapy to the chest when they were between the ages of 10 and 20 years, says the ACS.
In addition, women should be familiar with the appearance of their breasts and report any changes to their doctor. Occasionally, breast cancer is detected when a woman finds a lump in her breast while bathing.
While you can’t change some risk factors, such as aging and family history, there are lifestyle habits you can adopt to lower your risk for breast cancer, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
•Maintain a healthy weight.
•Avoid or limit alcohol.
•Discuss the risks of taking birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy with your doctor
•Breastfeed your children, if possible.
•If you have a family history of breast cancer or inherited changes in your BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, talk to your doctor about ways to lower your risk.
“Staying healthy throughout your life will lower your risk of developing cancer and improve your chances of surviving cancer if it occurs,” says the CDC.
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