Awareness fights cancer

October is a busy month of activities raising awareness of breast cancer prevention. Take a look around later this week, you’ll see pink ribbons, pins, hats, T-shirts and wristbands to kick off Breast Cancer Awareness Month. And in observance of the campaign, there will be a commemorative walks and events. For many years organizers behind the monthly observance have played a part in the continual reduction in breast cancer death rates in the United States.

Advancement in medical technology for treatment and detection combined with the fact that more women are recognizing the importance of mammograms and clinical exams mean there’s a major fight against cancer.

Fortunately October brings a month’s worth of attention to the disease and stresses the use of early detection, but the goal truly 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 approximately 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 United States has a 12.5 percent, or a one in eight chance, of developing breast cancer in her lifetime. 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, but thankfully the death rates have been declining since the early 1990s, with significant decreases in women younger than 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, according to officials. The American Cancer Society recommends women over 20 years of age 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 United States is testimony enough. Yet, unfortunately nearly 13 million American women age 40 or older have never had a mammogram.

Please remember today, and every day, that mammograms are safe and effective tests to detect breast cancers too small to be felt in a physical examination.

Locally, the monthlong 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.

Also shedding light on the disease will be the Women In Action Against Cancer Coalition of Jefferson County’s annual breast cancer wreath ceremony to be held at noon Oct. 16 at the Fort Steuben Mall. The ceremony is a celebration of breast cancer survivors and a remembrance of those whose lives have been touched by the disease.

Here in the Ohio Valley, women, and even men, need to do their part to keep cancer rates falling. That means self-examinations must be done, as well as visiting the doctor and getting a mammogram. Period.