Many years ago, there was—and still is, to an extent—a pervasive stigma around breast cancer. But in the 17 years since my own breast cancer diagnosis, I've witnessed how society has begun shining a brighter light on the education and awareness of the disease and the realization that it’s far from black and white. It’s no longer a one-size-fits-all approach as it was 40 years ago when almost every woman diagnosed received a mastectomy.

Advancements in research are a powerful source of hope for the community—a reminder that progress is constantly being made. Routine screening mammograms detect more breast cancers than ever before. Mastectomies are no longer the only surgical solution, with less invasive procedures—like lumpectomies—becoming increasingly recommended. Researchers are working hard to reach new heights in technology and drug development. And with the help of our entire community, our research investments have contributed to the development of all 19 lifesaving, FDA-approved breast cancer drugs in the last 12 years alone.

But what good is life-altering research if it can’t reach all those who need it? Unfortunately, various barriers continue to prevent people from reaping the rewards of these scientific breakthroughs. From AI to personalized therapies, the recent surge of innovation in breast cancer care is a new, exciting frontier. But as former Pfizer executive Dr. Freda Lewis-Hall once stated, "We are still in a system delivering Star Wars advancement in technology in a Flintstones’ healthcare system."

For both healthcare professionals and frontline advocates for eradicating breast cancer, we must identify the barriers in our patient care system and ensure that everyone benefits from these advancements—not just those with excellent health insurance and access to academic medical centers.

In the U.S., breast cancer is an expensive cancer to treat, causing patients to struggle to afford life’s most basic necessities. We also know that the healthcare industry is implicitly biased in its treatment of historically marginalized populations, causing countless women to experience life-threatening breast health inequities.

Precision medicine is key. As of right now, precision medicine is a privilege, but we want and need it to be the standard. While it’s exciting to see these innovations in technology and research unfold, the most rewarding outcome is witnessing how they change—and save—people’s lives. We must focus on the person first, not just their breast cancer. Previous medical histories and social determinants of health are crucial factors in a person’s breast cancer experience. Everyone’s treatment preferences are different, and we need to provide holistic care for the person at the core of the diagnosis.

Read the full article about progress on breast cancer by Paula Schneider at Forbes.