October. The month of welcoming fall, orange and black for Halloween and……pink. October is breast cancer awareness month, a focused attempt to ensure women get their preventive breast cancer screenings and raise awareness of the need for research and new treatment options.
Did you know that one in eight American women with develop breast cancer in her lifetime? I know it probably sounds odd since I had two other cancers, but I didn’t think I would be the one (read my breast cancer story). I guess we never do. It’s still admittedly a bit surreal, even months after treatment ended. But I was that one and can honestly say I am alive because of preventive screenings, like mammograms. Because while I do self exams each month, my cancer was smaller than half the size a pea. Too small to feel.
With an estimated 268,600 new cases of invasive breast cancer in the U.S. in 2019, as well as 62,930 new cases of non-invasive (in situ) breast cancer, it’s important to keep awareness on preventive screenings and early detection. These have helped ensure over 3.5 million breast cancer survivors in the United States. Including me.
Breast cancer screening facts:
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in American women, except for skin cancers.
If you have a family history of breast cancer or inherited gene mutation, you should be screened for breast cancer (male and female).
Be familiar with the way your breasts look and feel. Do self checks. There’s talk that self breast exams might not be the most effective but hello, if you feel a lump or notice a change in your breast, call the doctor (even if your mammogram was negative).
Screening for breast cancer is important for all women. While there are standard screening recommendations for various age groups, it’s most important to discuss the best types with your doctor.
Mammograms are designed to detect early breast cancer. Talk to your doctor to determine the best age for you to start getting a mammogram and how frequently you need mammograms (this can change with your age, health and family history.
Be proactive with your health and screenings! I’m very faithful about scheduling my cancer follow ups and screenings on time. When I turned 40, my doctor recommended annual 3D mammograms with ultrasound follow up if needed because of my dense breast tissue. I’m so thankful that she did because the 3D mammogram caught a shadow on my mammogram last December, which spurred them to do additional screenings to discover breast cancer. This early detection caught the cancer at a very early stage and saved my life.
Most health insurance plans are required to cover preventive mammograms every one to two years for women 40 years and older with no out-of-pocket costs (co-pay, deductible, or co-insurance). Check with your insurance company to confirm coverage.
Men get breast cancer too
For my male readers, you need to also pay attention to your body. Men, you can get breast cancer too. An estimated 2,670 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year in the United States and approximately 500 will die. A dear friend of mine felt a lump in his breast area, which turned out to be invasive cancer. After a mastectomy and chemotherapy, he thankfully is healthy again. He paid attention to his body and went to the doctor. Please make sure you do too.
Stepping on my soapbox for a moment:
Many companies promote pink, special products and more during October to help raise awareness of breast cancer. It’s admirable but also keep in mind that sometimes only a small percentage of consumer spending actually goes to charities and research. In my opinion, there is plenty of awareness. More research and treatment options are needed to stop this disease.
My point is make sure the pink beanie hat, shirt, smoothie or coffee actually supports research and specific organizations. If you want to a make a significant difference, consider volunteering for a nonprofit or donate directly to organizations that conduct research or support patients.
Sources: National Breast Cancer Foundation; American Cancer Society; Centers for Disease Control & Prevention; Susan G. Komen