October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. If you’re like me then you probably know at least one woman that has been diagnosed with the disease. Aside from skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer amongst American women. A few stats from the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc include:
- In 2022, an estimated 287,500 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women in the U.S. as well as 51,400 new cases of non-invasive (in situ) breast cancer.
- 65% of breast cancer cases are diagnosed at a localized stage (there is no sign that the cancer has spread outside of the breast), for which the 5-year relative survival rate is 99%.
- This year, an estimated 43,550 women will die from breast cancer in the U.S.
- Although rare, men get breast cancer too. In 2022, an estimated 2,710 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer in the U.S. and approximately 530 men will die from breast cancer.
- 1 in 8 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime
- Breast cancer is the most common cancer in American women, except for skin cancers. It is estimated that in 2022, approximately 30% of all new women cancer diagnoses will be breast cancer.
- There are over 3.8 million breast cancer survivors in the United States.
- On average, every 2 minutes a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States.
While the topic of cancer, particularly breast cancer, is a topic many like to avoid, it’s a topic that must be addressed. Across the country, organizations, people shine a light on the topic throughout the month of October. Athletes of high school, collegiate and professional sports teams can be spotted wearing pink socks, gloves, towels and even jerseys. There will be walks and runs taking place in many cities. Funds will be raised to for research and assistance to those who are battling.
Despite these efforts, many women still will avoid taking the necessary steps that aid in prevention. At the top of the list is mammograms – an x-ray of the breast. It’s the most effective tool doctors have to detect breast cancer especially in the early stages. The common recommendation is to have a mammogram yearly. This ensures doctors have x-rays to compare which will assist them in looking for changes to the breasts.
I’ve often heard from women who don’t receive yearly mammograms that cost is a barrier for them due to the lack of or not having insurance. While this can pose a challenge, many areas have national or community-based programs that offer low to no cost mammograms particularly during the month of October
Other reasons they don’t get them include they don’t have time, the radiation used for the mammogram can cause cancer, they’re painful, they’re afraid they may find something and they’re only for older woman. Most doctors will dispute these claims and are willing to take the necessary steps to ease a woman’s hesitation.
I’ve been getting mammograms since my mid-30s. My maternal grandmother had breast cancer, so my mother, aunt and cousin were all encouraged to start our yearly visits to the x-ray room early. As a person who has seen cancer be defeated as well as slowly overtake loved ones, I feel a responsibility to myself to always know my status. For me, there’s a peace of mind that accompanies knowing your body isn’t under attack.
My hope is that all women who read this will a) schedule a mammogram if you haven’t; b) if you have, ask a friend if they have. Most of us don’t want to have to do the things we need to, doctors wise, to ensure everything is a-ok — but it’s necessary. And having a community around us to remind us why we need to is important.
Do it for you!