It doesn’t discriminate. It’s an equal opportunity killer, and it needs to be stopped.
It’s breast cancer, and this month in particular has been set aside to make people aware of its dangers.
With one in eight American women being diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime, many of us are already painfully aware of the horrors of this disease from personal experience. The most common cancer in the world among women, according to the World Health Organization, breast cancer claims the lives of nearly 42,000 each year, and more than 268,000 are expected to be diagnosed this year.
These are sobering statistics. But the good news is, according to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, there has been a gradual reduction in female breast cancer rates among women 50 and older. Death rates have been declining since 1990 due to better screening, early detection, increased awareness and improvements in treatment. Efforts like Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October are surely making a difference.
While breast cancer is the most common, the next most common cancers are lung cancer and prostate cancer. Other especially common cancer types in this country, according to the National Cancer Institute, include bladder, colon and rectal, endometrial, kidney, liver, pancreatic and thyroid cancers as well as leukemia, melanoma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Gov. Larry Hogan (R) is a survivor of the last version of cancer on that unpleasant list.
More people actually die each year of colon and rectal cancer than breast cancer. And more than three times as many die from lung cancer than colon and rectal cancer. So a multi-front war to find a cure for all cancers is a good idea.
The National Football League has put itself on the front lines there during this awareness month, moving from just wearing pink to multiple colors on shoes and gloves as part of its “Crucial Catch: Intercept Cancer” campaign.
The idea of wearing pink began in 1991, when the Susan G. Komen Foundation handed out pink ribbons to participants in its New York City race for breast cancer survivors. And it has stuck.
The reason the entire month of October is dubbed Breast Cancer Awareness Month is right in the name: awareness.
During this time, many advertisers and national breast cancer foundations pour a great deal of money and energy into efforts to inform the public that breast cancer is the most common form of cancer for women — but, with early detection, it is also the most treatable.
These organizations, most notably the American Cancer Society and Komen, urge women to check themselves regularly for early signs, talk to their doctors and get mammograms. The message is very clear: The earlier breast cancer is detected, the better a woman’s chances for survival.
While women are the most likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer, men are not entirely immune to the disease. The third week in October is recognized as Male Breast Cancer Awareness Week. Men, too, should be checked regularly by their doctors during yearly physicals.
So take the time to learn about how you can get a jump on defeating cancer by reading up on the research, speaking with your doctor and performing self-checks regularly. Also, take a moment to donate to the American Cancer Society or Komen, or to one of the organizations right here in St. Mary’s, to keep funds flowing for research so that one day we can be rid of cancer in all its forms.
While it is a nice gesture to run a race or purchase pink products, perhaps the first step to keep from being part of the startling statistics is to simply schedule an annual physical.
Those individual victories can go a long way in helping make that crucial catch in the big fight against cancer.
And while you’re thinking about your overall well-being, take some time to drop by the University System of Maryland at Southern Maryland (formerly called the higher education center) in California on Friday, Oct. 18, from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. for the annual health and wellness fair sponsored by the county’s department of aging and human services. Skin cancer screenings are among the many services to be offered at the fair, along with blood pressure, vision and hearing and blood glucose checks. Flu shots will also be available. Call 301-475-4200, ext. 71073, for more information.
And to skip the registration line at USMSM, sign up ahead of time online at www.stmarysmd.com/aging/healthfair.asp by noon tomorrow, Thursday, Oct. 17.