This week begins a busy month of activities in an effort to boost the awareness of early prevention of breast cancer. Pink ribbons, pins, hats, T-shirts and wristbands will be seen in all communities beginning today, the start of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Organizers behind the monthly observance have played a part in the continual reduction in breast cancer death rates in the U.S.
Advancement in medical technology for treatment and detection combined with the fact that more women are recognizing the importance of mammograms and clinical exams have equaled a winning streak in the fight against cancer. October brings a month's worth of attention to the disease and stresses the use of early detection, but the goal is to carry out that message every day of the year.
The chances are good that breast cancer will touch you or someone you know.
Statistics show that breast cancer will strike 200,000 women this year and claim the lives of 40,000. It is the most common cancer among women, accounting for nearly one of every three cancers diagnosed in American women, according to American Cancer Society statistics.
Age is a woman's single most important risk factor for developing breast cancer. Statistics show a woman living in the U.S. has a 12.5 percent of developing breast cancer.
And African-American women are more likely to be diagnosed at a late stage, when the cancer is less treatable, leading to breast cancer death rates being 38 percent higher for black women.
Overall, the chance that breast cancer will be responsible for a woman's death is about one in 35, according to the ACS. Thankfully the death rates have been declining since 1990, with larger decreases in women younger than age 50.
Early detection, along with prompt treatment, as with any type of cancer, is the key. Breast cancer detected early has a five-year survival rate exceeding 95 percent.
The American Cancer Society recommends women over 20 years old perform breast self-examinations every month; women between 20-39 have a clinical breast exam every three years; and women over 40 have a clinical breast exam and mammogram every year.
It has been proven that mammograms save lives. A look at the more than 2.5 million breast cancer survivors in the U.S. is testimony enough. Yet, nearly 13 million American women age 40 or older have never had a mammogram. Please remember that mammograms are safe and effective tests to detect breast cancers too small to be felt in a physical examination.
Locally, the month-long observance brings to light the various avenues available to area residents, whether it be mammography, self-breast examinations, information and literature or the comforting words of a cancer survivor.