October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Breast cancer is the second most common type of cancer in American women. According to the National Cancer Institute, there were 268,600 new cases of breast cancer this year. Breast cancer also occurs in men, with about 2,100 diagnoses every year.
The positive news is that survival rates have improved. In fact, deaths from breast cancer decreased a little bit every year between 2007 and 2016, according to the institute. Some of the credit for improved rates of survival can be attributed to awareness and prevention efforts, such as knowing about risk factors and breast cancer screening.
There are many ways to honor breast cancer survivors as well as those who have lost their lives to the disease. Here are few tips:
1. Go pink! October is a perfect time to add some more pink to your life. Whether it’s simply wearing a breast cancer ribbon or wearing pink every day, you are showing your support.
2. Celebrate the survivor in your life. Beating cancer is a life-changing experience that can take a toll on a person’s mental and physical health. You can honor a survivor you know with a thoughtful card or a gift of pink flowers, breast cancer jewelry or a pink stuffed animal.
3. Educate yourself and others. Noticing changes in breast tissue can help save lives. But, do you know what to look out for? Symptoms of breast cancer include:
- Any change in the shape or size of the breast
- Thickening or swelling of part of the breast
- Redness or flaky skin in the nipple area or the breast
- Pulling in of the nipple
- Pain in the nipple area or any region of the breast
- A new lump or knot in the breast or underarm
- Nipple discharge other than breast milk; including blood
4. Spread awareness. Early detection is vital for survival rates. Help create more survivors by spreading the word about the importance of screening. Encourage women ages 40 to 49 in your life to talk with their doctors about when to start getting mammograms. For women age 50 to 74, remind them about getting a mammogram every 2 years.
5. Share resources. If you are on social media, you can post information about free and low cost screening resources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program. This program provides breast cancer screenings and diagnostic services to underserved women across the U.S. In Alabama, more information can be found at http://www.alabamapublichealth.gov/bandc/ or by calling 334-206-5851.