|Communities must do what it takes to fight breast cancer|
|Written by Christopher Fox Graham|
|Wednesday, 23 October 2013 00:00|
Cancer affects us all. Few of us can say we don’t know someone in our family or close circle of friends who has not been diagnosed with cancer.
October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, coordinated by numerous cancer organizations, who aim to fight this common form of cancer.
Most people are aware of breast cancer’s devastating effects on families and communities, but many women and men forget to take steps to detect the disease in its early stages and encourage others to do the same.
If you haven’t scheduled an appointment with your doctor for a mammogram or clinical breast exam, do so soon. Work with your doctor to determine your risk factors and methods to detect cancer early, whether it’s breast self-exams or regular doctor’s exams.
Some facts about breast cancer from the National Breast Cancer Foundation:
■ One-in-eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.
■ Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women and the second leading cause of death among women after heart disease.
■ Each year an estimated 220,000 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer and more than 40,000 will die.
■ Breast cancer occurs nearly 100 times more often in women than in men.
■ Two out of three women with invasive cancer are diagnosed after age 55.
■ Breast cancer is diagnosed more often in Caucasian women.
■ People with a history of breast or ovarian cancer in their families have a higher risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer and that risk increases if your relative was diagnosed before the age of 50.
■ Women who began menstruation before age 12, entered menopause after 55, had their first child at an older age or never gave birth also have an increased risk.
■ Mutations in certain genes, specifically BRCA1 and BRCA2, can increase risk. This is determined through a genetic test, which you may consider taking if you have a family history of breast cancer. Individuals with these gene mutations can pass the gene mutation onto their children.
■ Although breast cancer in men is rare, an estimated 2,150 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer and approximately 410 will die each year. Male breast cancer can be caused by radiation exposure, high levels of the hormone estrogen or a family history of breast cancer, especially if those cancers are related to the BRCA2 gene.
More information is available from the National Breast Cancer Foundation, American Cancer Society, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation, the National Institute of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Once National Breast Cancer Awareness Month ends, don’t let the fight against cancer fade until next October. Cancer can strike at any time of the year, so it’s up to us to remain vigilant and stop it early.
Christopher Fox Graham