Breast Cancer Awareness Month
By Congressman Randy Forbes, Oct 1, 2007 - Each October, pink ribbons appear at department store check out counters, on the corner of license plates, as the subject of postage stamps, and screen printed onto t-shirts across the country. With each pink ribbon I see, a smile is brought to my face as I am reminded of a dear friend of mine, Margaret Brothers. Just like thousands of women across the nation, Margaret battled breast cancer. Known for her quiet determination, Margaret’s personality became the driving force behind her three-year fight against breast cancer. Margaret endured what so many other women also endure each year – doctor appointments, surgical procedures, and chemotherapy treatments. But Margaret never lost her love of life, her faith, or her willingness to put others before herself, despite her life altering condition.
On October 17, 2004, Margaret lost her battle with breast cancer. I will always remember Margaret’s commitment to remain a mother, a wife, and a servant to others through it all. Her life is a constant reminder to find gratitude in each day we are given, despite our circumstances.
October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month, a time to remember those who are battling breast cancer, those who have survived breast cancer, and those – like Margaret – who have lost their lives to breast cancer. It is also a time to increase awareness of the disease and a hope for future generations that we might one day find a cure.
One of the primary goals of National Breast Cancer Awareness month is early detection. Since the start of the awareness program in 1985, mammography rates have more than doubled for women 50 years of age and older. As a result, breast cancer deaths have been on the decline. These are exciting numbers, but there are still thousands of women who do not take advantage of early detection and others who do not get screening mammograms or clinical breast exams at regular intervals. In 2007, over 40,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. However, the National Breast Cancer Awareness organization states that if all women over the age of the 40 took advantage of early detection methods, breast cancer death rates among these women could drop up to 30 percent.
Mammography tests are proven to be the most reliable tests in early detection of breast cancer. Most private insurance plans, as well as government insurance programs like Medicare and Medicaid, include regular mammogram screenings. Free and low-cost mammograms are also available for women without health insurance. For a list of programs near you, contact the Centers for Disease Control at (888) 842 – 6355 or the National Cancer Institute at (800) 4-CANCER.
There are other lifestyle choices you can make on a regular basis to help reduce your risk of breast cancer. The National Breast Cancer Awareness organization has provided a list of easy, low-cost steps towards breast cancer prevention. Taking these preventative steps can also help prevent against other diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.
Decrease your fat intake. Eating leaner meats, limiting red meat intake, and avoiding saturated and hydrogenated fats may reduce your chance of developing breast cancer.
Increase your fiber intake. Fiber is found in whole grains, vegetables, and fruits, and has been proven a natural combatant against cancers.
Eat fresh fruits and vegetables. Antioxidant properties and micronutrients found in fruits and vegetables have been proven to help prevent cancer.
Limit alcohol intake. Some research shows that women who drink more than two alcoholic drinks a day are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer.
Stay active. The buildup of excess fat stimulates estrogen production, which could cause breast cancer. The U.S. Surgeon General suggests participating in some form of moderate physical activity (such as a brisk walk) for thirty minutes everyday to help maintain a healthy body weight.
Don’t smoke. Smoking itself doesn’t directly cause breast cancer, but it does increase the chance of blood clots, heart disease, and other cancers that could spread to the breast.
It is important for women and their families to know the facts about breast cancer and the best methods for early detection and prevention. National Breast Cancer Awareness month’s website, www.nbcam.org, has a host of resources available to women and their families, including a list of Questions to Ask Your Doctor, general Breast Cancer Q&A, a list of breast cancer diagnosis and treatment centers, information on early detection, and a list of other helpful free resources. For additional cancer statistics, visit www.cancer.gov.