Every year in October, millions of Americans come together, clad in pink, to celebrate National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and increase awareness of one of the most common forms of cancer among women. Breast cancer is treatable when detected early and the goal of this month-long campaign is to promote screening and encourage women to be proactive in early detection.
Breast cancer affects both men and women, but occurs rarely in men. The National Cancer Institute estimates 232,340 women in the United States will develop breast cancer in 2013, resulting in 39,620 deaths. There are several ways to lower your risk of developing this deadly disease:
- Exercise and maintain a healthy body weight.
- Eat a healthy diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables.
- Know your family history and talk to your doctor if someone in your family has had cancer.
- Limit alcohol consumption to no more than one drink per day.
- Get screened. The best defense against breast cancer is to detect it early.
Breast cancer screening plays a crucial part in saving lives. Your risk of developing breast cancer increases with age; there are three forms of appropriate screening, depending on the age group in which you fall.
- Self-Examination: Women age 20 and older should perform monthly breast self-examinations and be on the lookout for symptoms.
- Clinical Examination: Women between the ages of 20-39 years old should receive a clinical breast examination from their physician every one to three years. Clinical examinations should be performed annually for women age 40 years old and older.
- Mammogram: Women age 40 or older should receive mammograms every two years. These tests can detect cancer up to three years before symptoms occur.
- The National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP) offers free or low-cost mammograms to women who qualify.
Breast cancer affects millions of people every year. You may know someone who has breast cancer or who has fought the disease, or you may be a survivor yourself. Until a cure is found, raising awareness and promoting prevention is how we can stand against this deadly disease.
Have you taken part in a breast cancer awareness event this month? Tweet @massgov with your pictures and stories