Breast Cancer Awareness by Matthew Hurley

It’s an alarming statistic. One that resonates all year long but takes on added significance during the month of October – Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

One in eight women, or 12.7% of all women, will get breast cancer in her lifetime. Those numbers would indicate the very real probability that someone you know, be it a family member or a friend, will be affected by this insidious disease.

Further statistics provided by the American Cancer Society (ACS) are staggering. Every 13 minutes a woman dies of breast cancer. It is the leading cause of cancer death in women between the ages of 15 and 54 and the second cause of cancer
death in women 55 to 74.

Also, nearly 1,500 cases of breast cancer are diagnosed in men every year – an often-overlooked statistic that all men should be aware of. These numbers are of course faceless in clinical terms but once humanized by a loved one and they become frightening reminders of the fragility of the human condition.

In a more positive light are the recent numbers that point to survival after an initial diagnosis. Early detection of breast cancer, through monthly selfexaminations and yearly mammography after the age of 40, offers the best chance for survival. In fact 96% of women who find and treat breast cancer early will be cancer-free after 5 years. And that’s what Breast Cancer Awareness Month is all about – knowledge, prevention and ultimately advocacy.

The ACS has provided screening guidelines for early detection, when it is most treatable, which is imperative for survival.

They are as Follows

  1. Yearly mammograms are recommended starting at the age of 40.
  2. A breast exam by a doctor or nurse should be part of periodic health examinations every three years for women in their 20s and 30s and every year for women over 40.
  3. Any irregularities in shape or feel should be immediately reported to a physician.
  4. Family history, or a genetic disposition, increases the risk for breast cancer. This is known as “inherited genetic mutations” (BRCA 1 and BRCA 2).

Some of the warning signs to be aware of include:

  • A new lump in the breast or underarm (armpit).
  • Thickening or swelling of part of the breast.
  • Pain in any area of the breast.
  • Irritation of the skin.

Although there are no guaranteed ways to prevent breast cancer the ACS recommends a few simple steps to reduce the risk of contracting the disease.

  • 1) Maintain a healthy body weight.
  • Engage in moderate to vigorous physical workouts at least five days a week.
  •  Be careful in regards to alcohol consumption. The ACS recommends no more than one drink per day.

For more information please visit the American Cancer Society website.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month has become a nationwide mission directed at not only exposure but for raising funds for research and altering the current state of the health insurance industry. Although the ongoing mess that is health care in this country dictates that expensive tests such as mammograms and other life saving cancer screenings and treatments are not covered by many health insurance policies, it should be viewed not as simply a failure on a national level but an ongoing evil that needs to be eradicated.

The fact that today there is only enough funding to screen 1 in 5 eligible women for community-based breast cancer and cervical cancer screening programs run by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention is deplorable. The result of this is that millions of women across the country go without life saving screenings and treatments. This is where advocacy enters in.

Do More

Volunteerism has become the cornerstone in the battle against restrictions placed on scientific studies in the field of cancer research. It is also through volunteers in events such as pledge walks that money is being raised across the country.

According to Dr. Susan Love, President of the Susan Love Research Foundation (affiliated with the Love/Avon Army of Women), “Over and over I’ve heard scientists lament how difficult it is for them to find the volunteers they need for research studies. I’ve long believed that helping scientists overcome this obstacle would accelerate our understanding of what causes breast cancer and how to end it. By responding to this need, the Army of Women will change the face of breast
cancer research.”*

Dr. Love’s partnership with the Avon Foundation for Women, a 501(c) (3) public charity, has raised and awarded more than $525 million worldwide for access to care and finding a cure for breast cancer. To learn more about the foundation please visit armyofwomen.org.

Through advocates like Dr. Love and non-profit organizations affiliated with the American Cancer Society the strides made over the last several years have been remarkable. In fact since 1993 nearly 5 million walkers across the country have raised more than $340 million dollars. Last year alone volunteers raised more than $60 million nationwide to help the American Cancer Society continue the battle against breast cancer and offer hope to those facing the disease.

Those numbers indicate the wealth of support being offered by people like you and me, but more is needed. So get involved in anyway you can. No amount of effort and support is insignificant in this ongoing struggle against a disease that truly affects us all.

* Retrieved from www.armyofwomen.org.
Contributed to the Masters Touch blog by Matthew Hurley

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