October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Know the Facts About this Deadly Disease
October 2017 marks the 32nd annual Breast Cancer Awareness Month, an international campaign to increase awareness of the disease, encourage those at risk to take preventative measures, and to raise funds for research into its cause, diagnosis, prevention, and cure. Over the years, a growing number of organizations have signed on to this campaign. In addition, many high-profile celebrities and athletes have lent their names to this cause.
The American Cancer Society reports that the annual October Breast Cancer Awareness campaign has made a measurable impact. Through increased awareness and better screenings, the risk of women dying from breast cancer has fallen by 38% since the late 1980s. This translates into nearly 300,000 fewer breast cancer deaths over the past few decades.
Though we are making progress, there is much more that needs to be done. Far too many women (and even some men) are still falling prey to this deadly disease. Here are some facts and statistics to help illustrate this point:
- Breast cancer is the second most common cancer among women
- Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among women
- More than 200,000 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with breast cancer each year
- More than 40,000 women in the U.S. die from breast cancer each year
- Overall, there are roughly 3.1 million individuals in the U.S. with a history of breast cancer
- An estimated one out of eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetimes
Factors that Increase the Risk of Breast Cancer
There are certain factors that put individuals at greater risk for developing breast cancer, some of the most notable include:
- Obesity: The risk of breast cancer is about 1.5 times higher among overweight women, and about 2 times higher among obese women.
- Heavy Smoking: A growing body of research suggests that heavy smoking, particularly among women who begin smoking before their first pregnancy, slightly increases the risk of developing breast cancer. Smoking may also contribute to complications during breast cancer treatment.
- Heavy Alcohol Consumption: Women who consume 2-3 (or more) alcoholic beverages per day are 20% more likely to develop breast cancer than non-drinkers.
How All of Us Can Help
There are several ways we as individuals can make a difference in the campaign to raise awareness and help put an end to breast cancer. Here are a few suggestions:
- Volunteer: Take part in a walk or another breast cancer awareness community event. Better yet, organize your own event.
- Get Social: Post articles like this one on your Facebook page and Twitter feed to bring greater attention to this campaign among your circle of influence.
- Take Charge of Your Own Health: A healthy diet and regular physical activity can help keep your weight under control and reduce your chances of developing this disease. Make a commitment to live a healthier lifestyle. In addition, be sure to take advantage of routine preventative services. Medicare, Medicaid, and most private insurers offer these services free of charge to women in certain age groups and higher risk categories.
- Encourage Others: Speak with those who are close to you about the importance of healthier habits and regular preventative screenings.
The fight against breast cancer is far from over. This is a long-term battle that will take the involvement of everyone (on some level) to achieve victory. We all have family members or friends that are at risk of developing breast cancer, so we all have a stake in putting an end to this deadly disease.