“When you do nothing, you feel overwhelmed and powerless. But when you get involved, you feel the sense of hope and accomplishment that comes from knowing you are working to make things better.”
– Maya Angelou
October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Breast cancer is one of the most frequently diagnosed cancers in women. In 2008 some 1,380,000 million new cases and 458,000 deaths were reported worldwide.
The number of people being diagnosed with breast cancer is increasing, but the good news is survival rates are improving. This is probably because of more targeted treatments, earlier detection and better breast awareness. The biggest risk factor, after gender, is increasing age – 80% of breast cancers occur in women over the age of 50.
Breast cancer also affects men, but it’s rare – around 300 men are diagnosed each year.
Breast cancer is not one single disease there are several types of breast cancer. Not all breast cancers show as a lump, and not all breast lumps are breast cancer. Less than 10% of breast cancer runs in families, so having someone in your family with breast cancer does not necessarily mean your own risk is increased.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month provides us with 31 crucial days to raise awareness and reduce the stigma of breast cancer through education on symptoms and treatment. It is also an opportunity to remind women to be ‘breast aware’ for earlier detection. It is my hope that greater knowledge will lead to earlier detection of breast cancer, which is associated with higher long-term survival rates, and that money raised for breast cancer will produce a reliable, permanent cure.
This October I am asking residents of West Park to be ‘breast aware’. Being ‘breast aware’ means getting to know your breasts; how they look and what they normally feel like. Until the threat of breast cancer is removed then self-examination remains the key to early detection. Breast cancers produce few warning signs and hardly ever cause pain. Beyond a vague discomfort, often the first thing people notice is an abnormal lump in their breast.
There are other possible signs: know them, look for them – and don’t take chances.
Below are five easy-to-remember steps.
1. Know what is normal for you.
2. Know the changes to look and feel for.
3. Look and feel.
4. Report any changes to your doctor without delay.
5. Attend regular breast screenings.
A pink ribbon is a symbol of breast cancer awareness. It may be worn to honor those who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. The pink ribbon is associated with individual generosity, faith in scientific progress, and a “can-do” attitude. It encourages us to focus on the emotionally appealing ultimate vision of a cure for breast cancer, rather than on the fraught path between current knowledge and any future cures.