Breast Cancer Awareness: The Pink Ribbon Could Save Your Life

Photo Credit: National Breast Cancer Foundation
Photo Credit: National Breast Cancer Foundation

It doesn’t seem to matter where you go or what you watch on television during the month of October, the pink breast cancer awareness ribbon will become a constant reminder that breast cancer is something that should be taken seriously. According to The American Cancer Society, 2014 will bring the following in the United States:

  • About 232,570 new cases of invasive breast cancer
  • About 62,570 new cases of carcinoma in situ (CIS) of the breast will be found (CIS is non-invasive and is the earliest form of breast cancer).
  • About 40,000 deaths from breast cancer

Doctors are always pushing women to do self-exams and to be aware of the “normal” feel of our own breasts so that we know immediately if there is a change. Early detection is such a key factor in any type of cancer.

About 10 years ago my doctor found a lump in my breast, but I wasn’t really freaked out by it when he first told me. However, about three days later while I was in the shower and actually felt the lump, it hit me like a wave. My husband found me thirty minutes later sitting and bawling on the floor of the shower. I was one of the lucky ones and all tests came back that I just had a cyst. Unfortunately, it took that episode for me to take breast cancer seriously. Apparently, having two aunts and a grandmother that had it wasn’t enough for me.

It is so important for us to be vigilant in knowing our bodies and being able to sense a change or when something just isn’t right. Doing so could be a matter of survival. The American Cancer Society recommends the following guidelines for early detection of breast cancer in women without symptoms:

Mammogram: Women age 40 and older should have a screening mammogram every year and should keep doing so for as long as they are in good health. 

Clinical breast exam: Women in their 20s and 30s should have a clinical breast exam (CBE) as part of a regular exam by a health expert at least every 3 years. After age 40, women should have a breast exam by a health expert every year. It might be a good idea to have the CBE shortly before the mammogram.

Breast self-exam (BSE): BSE is an option for women starting in their 20s. Women should be told about the benefits and limits of BSE. Women should report any changes in how their breasts look or feel to a health expert right away.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): Women at high risk based on certain factors should get an MRI and a mammogram every year. This includes:

  • Women who have about a 20% lifetime risk of breast cancer or higher based on family history
  • Women who had radiation therapy to the chest when they were between the ages of 10 and 30 years
  • Women who have mutations (abnormal changes) in certain genes that greatly increase their breast cancer risk or who haven’t been checked for these mutations but have close family members that have one of these mutations

The next time you see a scarf, necklace, t-shirt, bottle of water, or a bag of potato chips with a pink ribbon on it, take a moment to make sure you are doing all you can to protect yourself from this disease. You owe it to yourself and the ones that love you.


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