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Breast Cancer Awareness can save your life

Be aware

By Toi Degree

Rowan Cooperative Extension

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, an annual campaign to increase awareness of the disease.

According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer every two minutes. In fact, more women are diagnosed with breast cancer than any other cancer except skin cancer.

This year, an estimated 268,600 women in the United States will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer, and 62,930 women will be diagnosed with in situ breast cancer. The earliest stages of cancers are called “carcinoma in situ.” Carcinoma means “cancer” and in situ means “in the original place.” And although rare, men get breast cancer too. The lifetime risk for U.S. men is about 1 in 1,000 or about 2,670 a year.

Innovations in research, surgical options and clinical trials give women many more options. With early detection, a woman’s survival rate goes up. That’s why breast self-exams are an important way for women to give their “girls” a fighting chance, during Breast Cancer Awareness Month and every day.

It is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of breast cancer — many are invisible and without professional screening cannot be detected. Others are very noticeable and include tenderness or pain and sometimes a lump is present.

Please understand that breast pain or any discomfort, tenderness or pain in the breast or underarm region may occur for a number of reasons. Generally, breast pain is not a sign of breast cancer. There are a number of other things that could be the cause. For more information, visit the National Breast Cancer Foundation Inc. at https://www.nationalbreastcancer.org/breast-pain/.

I also know there is fear and we’ve all been there. I, too, have had a few scares.  But had I not been going for regular screenings, I would never have caught them. They were nothing, but it could have been something. Like most of you, I’ve had many members of my family lose the battle against cancer. So, for me, it is imperative that I do all I can to be proactive.

With cancer being so prevalent in our society, we have to do all that we can to take the best care of ourselves as possible. With that being said, the final piece to this is living a healthy lifestyle. A healthy lifestyle can help with our overall health. Although we can’t prevent cancer healthy habits can help reduce risk.

Do your very best to…

  1. Maintain a healthy weight;
  2. Stay physically active;
  3. Eat fruits and vegetables;
  4. Do not smoke;
  5. Limit alcohol consumption.

As a woman, breast cancer remains one of the most concerning issues because it is so common and affects so many women each year. But what gives me hope is the number of survivors who celebrate the number of years that they have been cancer-free. And the fact that statistics from sources such as the National Cancer Institute recently declared that:

  • Death rates from breast cancer have been declining since about 1990, in part due to better screening and early detection, increased awareness and continually improving treatment options.
  • There are over 3.5 million breast cancer survivors in the United States.
  • 62% of breast cancer cases are diagnosed at a localized stage, for which the five-year survival rate is 99%.

This is awesome news and shows how far we’ve come. So ladies and men, we just need to make sure we stay vigilant with self-checks, screenings, eating well, exercise and rest. Listen to your body and seek medical treatment if you think you need to. Be well!

For more information, resources, or to donate to breast cancer research, visit the National Breast Cancer Foundation Inc. at https://www.nationalbreastcancer.org/

Toi N. Degree, Family & Consumer Education Agent, North Carolina Cooperative Extension Rowan County Center, 704-216-8970 or  toi_degree@ncsu.edu

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