Breast Cancer Awareness Month is being promoted all through October. You have no doubt noticed football players wearing pink, as well as groups of folks “Standing Up to Cancer.” There are more than 2.5 million breast cancer survivors in the U.S., thanks to research and medical technology. Researchers don’t know what causes breast cancer, but they have identified several risk factors. The National Cancer Institute (NCI – www.cancer.gov) lists the following factors as increasing the chances of breast cancer. You may be able to help your employees family, or friends by bringing this promotion to their attention and asking them to privately evaluate their own risks:
❏ Age—most cases occur after age 60
❏ Personal history—cancer in one breast increases risk for the other
❏ Family history—chances increase if mom, sister, or daughter had breast cancer
❏ Breast changes—certain types of abnormal cells increase risk
❏ Gene changes—genes include BRCA1 and BRCA2
❏ Reproductive history—no children or late children increase risk
❏ Menstrual history—pre-age 12 menstruation and post-55 menopause increase risk
❏ Race—white women more at risk
❏ Radiation therapy to chest—before age 30 increases risk
❏ Breast density—more dense tissue and less fatty increases risk
❏ Weight—overweight or obese after menopause increases risk
❏ Activity level—less activity = greater risk
❏ Alcohol—more alcohol = greater risk
Women over age 40 should have an annual mammogram, and understand how to do self-examinations. Even after reaching past age 70, women should still get mammograms. Although it is not as common in men, breast cancer can develop in the breast tissue of men. The notice of any lumps should be brought to the attention of one’s physician.
I have several friends who have survived breast cancer because of early detection and receiving the proper treatment – surgery and follow-up therapy their doctors thought were best for each particular case. However, I had a cousin that developed a very aggressive type of breast cancer, and she lived only one year following surgery, and going through every type of treatment possible. She was 56 years old, and had never had a mammogram, even though her mother had experienced breast cancer. This should serve as a lesson to all women: early detection through mammograms can help save lives.
Breast cancer awareness is also observed internationally during the month of October. Many charities depend on this promotion to raise money for research. Let’s hope that mothers, daughters, grandmothers, siblings, and friends will someday not have to worry about breast cancer. That will truly be a miracle. For those who are fighting this disease, keep on fighting, and to their friends and families – keep supporting them! We must always keep the threat of Breast Cancer at the forefront, not just in October.