“Whoever said winning isn’t everything never had to fight breast cancer. Breast cancer does not care who you are. It can strike any woman, any man, any family. And when it does, we all have the same fears, cry the same tears and pray to God for the same thing – to survive for ourselves and for our families.”
Breast cancer is a devastating disease with physical, emotional, and psychological pain that can last a lifetime. Globally, a case of breast cancer is diagnosed every 29 seconds and a woman dies from breast cancer every 75 seconds worldwide.
Without a cure, over the next 25 years, another 25 million women and men are expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer and it is estimated that 10 million will die.
With early detection and selection of the most advanced therapies, survival has improved dramatically in many countries. But Japan is not in the lead; and this is because so few women have annual mammograms.
As the baby boom becomes the cancer boom, the shortage of oncologists and pathologists in Japan will lead to an even greater risk to Japanese women.
In January 2008 The Daily Yomiuri reported a dangerous shortage of pathologists who are indispensable in diagnosing cancer. There are less than 2,000 or about 1.4 pathologists per 100,000 of Japan’s population compared with about 7.9 per 100,000 in the United States.
Of the 287 medical institutions designated by the Japanese government as major hospitals for cancer treatment, 114, or 40 percent, have only one full-time pathologist, while 39 others have no full-time pathologist. This shortage is expected to worsen, as the average age of over 80% of the pathologists is 52.
The feedback from the centers that we donated mammography machines to is hopeful. Tumors have been discovered early enough for successful life-saving treatment. Awareness is increasing in these communities and women are coming in for screening. Because of you, we’re making a difference.
Our sights remain high to bring greater awareness, high-quality screening, early detection and timely treatment to this life-threatening disease, which is diagnosed in 1 in 12 Japanese women and No. 1 killing cancer between the ages of 25 and 55.
I am a breast cancer survivor, and I live each day grateful for the good prognostic markers of my early-stage disease. I try not to focus on the small chance that it may come back. Someday our journey will end, whether from old age or maybe from the disease itself. Today I see life and cherish the fact that I am a survivor.