National breast cancer awareness month kicks off today, and is becoming more mainstream these days, with Pepsi and Yoplait, amongst many that have launched programs for donating to the research and prevention for the disease. As the 26th year of this begins in 2010, breast cancer is still the second most common cancer among women, following non-melanoma skin cancer. As this year marks the 26th anniversary of this yearly event, it still takes a big toll on American women, with 41,000 dying from it in 2006 out of 191,000 being diagnosed with the disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, although they claim major progress has been made over the past 20 years. Another sign of how serious the issue is, according to the Susan G. Komen site, a woman dies of this disease every 69 seconds. That is a sobering thought.
The primary focus of this month is to of course, increase awareness, and to urge more women to take precautions, such as screenings and early detection practices. The mammogram is the best method to detect it early when it is easier to treat and before is is large enough to feel or create symptoms. Having regular mammograms can reduce the risk of dying from this disease as well. Women between the ages of 50 to 74 years old should take measures to ensure they are screened every two years. For women between the ages of 40 to 49 years, speak with your doctor as to when and how often you should get screened with a mammogram.
Another screening test is the Clinical breast exam, which is an exam by a doctor or nurse who uses their hands to feel for lumps or other noticeable changes.
The third type of screening test is the self-exam, where you check your own breasts for lumps, alterations in size or shape of the breast, or any other irregularities in the breasts or underarm (armpit).
For a brief reminder or for those that don’t know, here is a list of the warning signs:
* New lump in the breast or underarm (armpit).
* Thickening or swelling of part of the breast.
* Irritation or dimpling of breast skin.
* Redness or flaky skin in the nipple area or the breast.
* Pulling in of the nipple or pain in the nipple area.
* Nipple discharge other than breast milk, including blood.
* Any change in the size or the shape of the breast.
* Pain in any area of the breast.
Which types of tests are best for you?
Having the clinical or self breast exams have not been found to decrease the risk of dying from this disease. At this time, the best proven method to detect it is the mammogram. If you do choose to use the clinical and/or the self testings, be sure that you also utilize the mammograms on a regular basis.
Where do I get Screened?
More than likely you can get screened for it at a local clinic, hospital or doctor’s office. If you decide you wish to be screened, contact your doctor’s office. They will help you to schedule an appointment, and most health insurance companies will pay for the cost of the screening tests. If you are concerned about the costs, the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP) offers free or low-cost mammograms and also offers education about breast cancer. To see if you qualify for this service, contact your local NBCCEDP.
With the 26th annual National Breast Cancer Awareness Month kicking off today, the goal is to make awareness of the disease more prevalent and get women to get screenings, and promote early detection, as well as the typical fund raising drives, and other pink strategies. But going pink isn’t always the best approach if you choose to donate, or help the cause. According to Ann Harris, a breast cancer survivor and nurse, and the president of the BCAA and one of the Twin Cities’ busiest activists around. She states that “I get a little frustrated that so many people jump on the bandwagon and think because they buy something pink, it’s going to do something good. I always ask the cashier or the people asking for money for a race if they know where the money is going. If they don’t, I say I’m glad your putting effort into this, but I’ll pass.”
There is also concern over companies that slap a pink label on something and donate, but the products they give to the cause through are associated and linked to it, which is coined as “pink washing”. But there are good stories to come from this at times, like General Mills last year, which supports the cause with it’s Yoplait yogurt each year, discontinued the use of rBGH, which is a synthetic hormone that is linked to the disease. Another concern is products that have a limit on how much they donate, which is another questionable practice. So there will be pink everywhere this month, and don’t get dismayed, just do a little research on the products you are buying, or the group you are donating to, to make sure that it is a good worthy cause and not just a pink fad or “pink washing” scam to increase sales. This is where the “Think Before You Pink” campaign comes in, as it encourages consumers to ask questions before purchasing a product with a pink ribbon, such as how much goes to the cause, where does it go, is there a cap on donations, what do they do to ensure it doesn’t actually contribute to the disease itself. The link above is actually for the Think Before You Pink .org web site and goes more into details about how to be more prudent when buying pink.
As the National Breast Cancer Awareness Month begins today, we hope that you pink wisely, and help the cause, and get screened if you are woman. Take care my friends and peace!