October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Pink ribbons adorn everything from medical clinics to our bridge in Cape Girardeau to NFL football fields in an effort to raise awareness about this deadly disease and the importance of early detection to save the lives of its victims.
According to the National Cancer Institute, there will be 230,000 new cases of breast cancer in the United States this year. Some 40,000 Americans will die of this disease in 2012. Even though no cancer awareness campaign is as noticeable as those bright pink ribbons for breast cancer, the disease still takes the life of roughly 15 percent of those who receive a diagnosis.
Fortunately, there are proven prevention measures to go hand-in-hand with awareness. Changing eating habits, avoiding things known to cause cancer, and some medications can dramatically reduce the risk of cancer. Knowing your family history is important, and so is making sure you get the recommended screenings from your health care provider.
Mammograms are the most prevalent form of breast cancer screening in the United States. The National Cancer Institute recommends women over age 40 receive a mammogram every one to two years, and perhaps earlier for those with a family history of the disease. Medicare covers the examination, and so may a program of the Centers for Disease Control called the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program.
Screening and early detection dramatically reduce the chances that breast cancer will become fatal, especially in women over the age of 50. The primary benefit of early detection is simple: treatment can begin earlier, meaning that the cancer can be stopped before it can spread.
Those pink ribbons, pink sweatshirts, and pink wristbands on NFL players are there not only to make us more aware of the disease; they are also there to remind us to make sure that the women who matter in our lives get the screening they need.
By working together, we can boost the survival rate for breast cancer. Today, that statistic stands at 88 percent and rising for Stage I breast cancer. However, breast cancer remains the second-leading cause of cancer deaths among American women. Early detection of breast cancer makes it far less deadly, but the disease is still very common. One of every eight women born in the U.S. today will develop breast cancer at some point in their lives.
So, talk to the women in your life. Talk to your doctor about ways to lower your risk. Get the screening you need – if nothing else than for your peace of mind.
And keep wearing the pink ribbon. As we find more creative ways to promote awareness of breast cancer, we will continue to spread the message that will save American lives – our friends, our mothers, our sisters, and our children.