Everyone has seen the pink ribbons on lapels and bags, but how many people actually know what they stand for? An informal survey at the Bell Tower revealed that only about five of every 10 students questioned could correctly answer “the fight against breast cancer.”
October has been named National Breast Cancer Awareness Month in an effort to heighten the public’s awareness of this cause and to inform more women of the importance of regular breast examinations.
Organizations and clinics all over the country work extra hard during this month in an effort to educate the public on detection and treatment methods, as well as the risk factors associated with breast cancer.
In 1993, President Clinton proclaimed the third Friday in October to be National Mammogram Day. On this day, radiologists and private clinics nationwide offer discounted or free mammograms as an incentive for women to have their recommended yearly screening.
This year, National Mammogram Day is Friday, Oct. 19. In an effort to further support the value of having regular mammograms, which are x-ray pictures of the breast, a Web site dedicated to National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (www.nbcam.org) offers an e-mail reminder service for women.
An estimated 40,200 women will die this year from breast cancer, with 2,200 of them from Pennsylvania alone.
While it is possible for anyone to develop breast cancer, there are certain identified risk factors associated with the disease. A family history of breast cancer increases a woman’s risk of developing the disease, as 20 percent of all breast cancer cases occur in women with affected family members.
Also, according to the Breast Cancer Information Center, the risk of breast cancer greatly increases with age. Women up to age 30 have a one in 2,525 chance of developing breast cancer, but by the age of 60 those chances increase to one in 24.
Since early detection of breast cancer is key, women are encouraged to perform breast self-exams each month and report any lumps or unusual findings to their doctors. Self-examination has been shown to improve a woman’s chance of treating the cancer and surviving the disease. In addition, regular mammograms greatly increase chances for survival.
There are several methods available for the treatment of breast cancer. Surgery can remove all or part of the breast, providing long-term survival if the cancer is in its early stages. Other options include radiation to kill the cancer cells; chemotherapy, which uses a combination of drugs to slow the growth of the cancer cells; and hormone therapy, which denies the cancer cells the hormones they need to continue growing.
If you would like to get involved in the fight against breast cancer, call the local branch of the American Cancer Society at 215-985-5400, or check out these Web sites for more information: