Every three minutes another woman is diagnosed with breast cancer. Breast cancer will strike 1.3 million women this year and kill almost 500,000, making it the second-leading killer of women worldwide - a fact the American Cancer Society is fighting to change. Excluding cancers of the skin, breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in women.
According to the Society, the best way to find breast cancer is at an early stage, usually before physical symptoms develop and when the disease is most treatable. Yearly mammograms are recommended starting at age 40 and continuing for as long as a woman is in good health.
Thanks to mammography, doctors are now catching smaller tumors, and a woman's risk of dying of breast cancer has now dropped 31 percent since mortality rates peaked in 1989.
"This is one screening test I recommend unequivocally, and would recommend to any woman 40 and over, be she a patient, a stranger or a family member," said Otis W. Brawley, M.D., national chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society.
In addition to getting appropriate early detection tests, everyone can take steps to stay well and reduce their risk of breast cancer by maintaining a healthy weight, staying active, and limiting the amount of alcohol they drink to no more than one drink per day (no more than two drinks per day for men).
The American Cancer Society has spent more on breast cancer research than on any other cancer - having invested more than $418 million in breast cancer research grants since 1971. The Society has played a part in many major cancer research breakthroughs in recent history. Some encouraging news: If you do get cancer, you're more likely to beat it if caught early. The five-year survival rate for breast cancer is 98 percent among individuals whose cancer has not spread beyond the breast at the time of diagnosis.
Cancer tests save lives
Age 21-29: Tell your doctor if you notice any changes, such as a lump, in your breasts.
Age 30-39: Inform your doctor if you notice any changes and have your doctor or nurse examine your breasts every three years. (Get a regular pap test as well.)
Age 40-49: Tell your doctor of any changes and have an X-ray (mammogram) of your breasts every year.
Age 50 and older: Follow the same steps as explained in ages 40-49 and get a regular colon cancer test.
The American Cancer Society can take you beyond breast cancer awareness and into action. The American Cancer Society Making Strides Against Breast Cancer event unites communities across the nation each year to help save lives from breast cancer and provide hope to people facing the disease. Since 1993, nearly 6 million walkers have raised more than $400 million through Making Strides. To learn more or join the movement, visit cancer.org/stridesonline or call (800) 227-2345.
This year, an estimated 207,090 women in the United States will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer. These numbers are way too high and you have the power to help change that. I encourage you to tell everyone you know about www.cancer.org/PinkOutIA, and send a mammogram reminder to yourself and to a woman you love today. It works like this: When you send a mammogram e-reminder to someone you care about, not only are you reminding her to get a life-saving screening, you're helping the American Cancer Society to light up the state pink.
To learn more about breast cancer call your American Cancer Society at (800) ACS-2345 for free information, or visit www.cancer.org. The Society offers people facing breast cancer free services to overcome daily challenges, like transportation, lodging, guidance through every step of the cancer experience, and information to help them make decisions about their care.
Women know that reducing their breast cancer risk is important, but they often choose to put the health of others first. I encourage you to let the "pink" you see throughout this month be a good reminder for you to get your recommended tests this year. More women having mammograms can mean more women celebrating birthdays.
Ashley Matsen is the wellness director for Friendship Haven and serves as a volunteer on the Coordinating Committee for the American Cancer Society Relay For Life of Webster County.