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Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Being More Aware of Breast Cancer

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You may or may not know that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. While it may seem that every month touts its own cause, October's cause is indeed poignant and very, very relevant. Breast cancer is still a mean killer, and a prevalent one: one in eight women will be diagnosed with it in their lifetimes, according to the American Cancer Society. So what, then, should we be aware of? And why?breast cancer

The answer may at first seem obvious: we should be aware of it so that we can be motivated to detect it in ourselves so that we can greatly reduce our chances of dieing from it, right? Certainly. But there is so much more that we can be aware of, and so many reasons for that heightened awareness. Beyond breast cancer self-examination techniques, there are some hefty statistics and even deeper stories about living with breast cancer that can enlarge our hearts and enliven our compassion.

The American Cancer Society reports that, this year:

  • About 232,340 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women.
  • About 64,640 new cases of carcinoma in situ (CIS) will be diagnosed (CIS is non-invasive and is the earliest form of breast cancer).
  • About 39,620 women will die from breast cancer.
  • Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women, exceeded only by lung cancer. The chance that breast cancer will be responsible for a woman's death is about 1 in 36 (about 3%).

Additionally, they state that:

Death rates from breast cancer have been declining since about 1989, with larger decreases in women younger than 50. These decreases are believed to be the result of earlier detection through screening and increased awareness, as well as improved treatment. At this time there are more than 2.8 million breast cancer survivors in the United States.

There is a very long list of risk factors for the disease, but having one of them (e.g., being female, having a family history of it), or even several of them, does not necessarily mean you will get it. Nevertheless, it is a list that we as women should be familiar with so that we can change those negative behaviors that put us at greater risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer.

breast cancer picture courtesy of flickr surfacewarriors

What is it Like to Live With Breast Cancer?

Perhaps many of us avoid seeking greater awareness of the disease because we are afraid of the sadness that these statistics entail, the thought that there may be almost 40,000 families out there right now grieving a mother, daughter, or sister lost to breast cancer. Even worse may be the stories of those currently living with it.  But what we may not realize is that, with those kind of statistics, it is quite likely that every one of us knows someone who has been affected by or died from this disease; getting to know their stories, if they are not known by you already, can be a means not only of self-preservation but of love and caring. Becoming familiar with their stories enables us to be better neighbors, friends, and family members.

Some wonderful women have, in fact, shared their intimate stories of breast cancer struggles with MomItForward over the years: Judy Schwartz Haley and Patricia Brett, to name a couple. Their stories are infused not only with struggle, but with perseverance and inspiration. Patricia, for example, came up with a whole swimwear line specifically for breast cancer survivors. Judy gathered information on breast cancer support groups.

There are many things we can take away from increased breast cancer awareness: tips for showing support to its victims, determination to be more vigilant in our own self-examinations, and ideas for things we can do today to help others with the disease. A cause is only as depressing as our inactivity allows it to be.

Do you know anyone affected by breast cancer? What stories or tips can you share with us?

Cupcake photo courtesy of Flickr. "Ribbon" photo courtesy of Flickr, as well.


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