Each year, one in eight women (12%) in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer. This is a staggering amount. However, in recent years, the number of deaths has decreased significantly. This is largely due to increased advocacy, in part by October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
When Did Breast Cancer Awareness Month Begin?
National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM) began in 1985. It was started as partnership with the American Cancer Society and (the now) AstraZeneca pharmaceutical company. The initial goal of NBCAM was to promote mammograms as the key ways of preventing breast cancer.
Breast cancer, like many other forms of cancer, is more easily treatable when it’s caught early on. There are several ways to detect breast cancer:
- Self Examinations – Each month, you should conduct a self examination to identify lumps, pain, areas of redness or itchiness, and changes in size. While these symptoms are not always indicative of cancer, they are very common symptoms for it.
- Clinical Examinations – It’s very important to schedule annual examinations with your OB/GYN. In addition to checking bloodwork and conducting Pap smears, your doctor will examine your breasts for lumps.
- Mammograms – After the age of 40, women should receive mammograms every 1-2 years. Simply put, mammograms are breast x-rays to discover lumps. Disclose to your doctor if you have a family history, previous diagnosis, or other increased risk factor. They may recommend mammograms more frequently or sooner in life.
- MRI’s – If mammograms are unclear or indeterminate, your doctor may order a magnetic resonance image (MRI). This screening is recommended more for women who are at high risk, as it can give “false positives” for average risk patients.
What It All Means
Because of the work to create awareness about the dangers of breast cancer, the number of breast cancer deaths has decreased since 1989. Due to the work of NBCAM and other groups, there is less stigma around preventative measures and from being a self-advocate.
As healthcare providers, the staff at MCP encourages you to do three things: (1) conduct self examinations each month (2) go to your doctor for annual checkups (3) know your body so that you can be your own healthcare advocate.