Most of you know that raising breast cancer awareness has been a mission for me for more than two decades, and since October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I wanted to take a moment to thank all of you who participated with us in the NW Ohio Komen Race for the Cure events in Findlay and Toledo. Some 15,000 participants came out to support the cause in downtown Toledo, including about 2,000 breast cancer survivors. For the fourth year in a row, the ProMedica team took home the traveling trophy for biggest overall team with more than 800 members.
But the real winners are uninsured or underinsured women in our community who will receive mammograms, treatment and other services because of your participation and generosity! Thank you.
I also couldn’t resist the opportunity to talk about some facts and dispel some fiction related to breast cancer:
- All women are at risk for breast cancer. TRUE. The two most common risk factors for breast cancer are being female and getting older. The risk of getting breast cancer increases as you age. Most breast cancers and breast cancer deaths occur in women aged 50 and older. Fewer than 5% of breast cancers happen in women under the age of 40, but breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among women ages 20 to 59.
- Only women with a family history get breast cancer. FALSE. About 70% of women diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history. But if a first-degree relative (parent, sibling, or child) is diagnosed with breast cancer, your risk of developing the disease approximately doubles. Having two first-degree relatives with breast cancer increases your risk even more.
- Most breast lumps are cancerous. FALSE. In fact, nearly 80% of breast lumps are NOT cancerous. So don’t panic if you find a lump, but do have a doctor check it out to make sure it’s not cancerous.
- Men can get breast cancer.TRUE. Men have breast tissue too, and each year in the U.S. more than 2,000 men are diagnosed with breast cancer.
- Breast cancer always appears in the form of a lump. FALSE. Redness, scaliness and dimpling can indicate breast cancer, as can breast or nipple pain or nipple discharge not related to breast milk.
- Breast cancer is preventable. Sadly, FALSE. But it is possible to identify risk factors (such as family history and inherited gene mutations) and make lifestyle changes that can lower your risk. Reducing or eliminating alcohol consumption, losing weight, getting regular exercise and screenings, and quitting smoking can help reduce your risk of breast cancer.
If you remember nothing else, remember this: You are your own best weapon to fight breast cancer. You know your own body better than anyone else, so doing your monthly breast self-exams and paying attention to any changes that you can see or feel is your first line of defense against breast cancer. Be knowledgeable and be healthy!
Chrys Peterson is a spokeswoman for ProMedica Cancer Institute’s Friends for Life online community. To learn more about Friends for Life or to enroll in our monthly newsletter, please visit http://www.promedica.org/friendsforlife.