Editorial: It’s time again to think pink
Abreast cancer diagnosis doesn’t affect just the patient. It causes sorrow and fear for all the people who know the mother, grandmother, sister or wife confronting the disease.
The statistics on breast cancer are grim. An estimated 281,550 women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer this year, and the illness will kill 43,600 women, according to the Susan G. Komen organization. An estimated 4,460 Alabama women will be diagnosed and 720 will die, according to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation of Alabama.
Yet, there are positive signs. The Komen organization reports that from 1989 to 2018 (the most recent data available), “breast cancer mortality decreased by 41% due to improved breast cancer treatment and early detection. Since 1989, about 403,200 breast cancer deaths in U.S. women have been avoided.”
Coloring this month pink helps various organizations raise money for research and improved treatment that will help decrease mortality from the illness.
More importantly, having a breast cancer awareness month provides a chance to educate women about how they can lessen the likelihood they’ll get breast cancer but detect it early if they do.
There are some risk factors for breast cancer that are out of a woman’s control, including family history, her gender, age and ethnicity. Most breast cancer is found in women 55 and older, for instance. And women are 100 times more likely to get breast cancer than men.
The American Cancer Society says there are steps a woman should take to reduce her chances of having breast cancer, including:
• Stay physically active. The ACS recommends getting 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise every week, preferably spread out over several days.
• Limit use of alcohol. Women who drink should consume no more than one alcoholic drink a day, the ACS recommends.
• Stay at a healthy weight. The ACS recommends avoiding weight gain with a proper diet and exercise.
Recommendations for detecting breast cancer vary based on a woman’s risk factors and age, but finding the disease early and getting treatment clearly lead to better outcomes.
The American Cancer Society says women who get regular mammograms are more likely to have their breast cancer found early, less likely to need the most aggressive treatments and more likely to be cured.
The latest recommendations call for women at average risk of breast cancer to consider starting regular mammograms between the ages of 40-44 before getting them annually from 45-54. Women 55 and older may need them only every other year.
So as the weather cools and fall arrives this month, take the opportunity to learn more about breast cancer. Women can make lifestyle changes that make them less vulnerable to the disease. They also can make sure to talk to their medical providers about screening.
All of us can consider donating to an organization or project that helps fight breast cancer, whether it involves research, purchasing new equipment or making detection accessible to those with limited resources.
Think pink in October. Think prevention. Think early detection.