Don’t stop at breast cancer aware­ness

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum -

With one in eight women di­ag­nosed with breast cancer in their life­time, many of us are painfully aware of the hor­rors of this dis­ease from per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence; we don’t need a ded­i­cated month to know them.

The most com­mon cancer in the world among women, ac­cord­ing to the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion, breast cancer claims the lives of more than 40,500 each year, and more than 250,000 are di­ag­nosed an­nu­ally. It equates to a di­ag­no­sis ev­ery two min­utes and a breast cancer death ev­ery 13 min­utes.

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 aged 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.

This month, to high­light breast cancer aware­ness, ev­ery edi­tion of the Mary­land In­de­pen­dent will fea­ture the pink breast cancer aware­ness rib­bon in the flag on our front page. It’s just one small ac­tion taken to re­mind women to get screened, and to re­mind ev­ery­one to sup­port those who are fight­ing or have lost some­one to this hor­ri­ble and nondis­crim­i­na­tory dis­ease.

But aware­ness is only one part of the equa­tion, and breast cancer is sadly just one type of cancer among many. 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. 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.

With so much of the spot­light on breast cancer, let’s not put other cancer screen­ings out of our hearts, minds and cal­en­dars. Women, con­sider this your in­vi­ta­tion to con­sult your doc­tor on when to sched­ule your mam­mo­gram and do a quick self-screen­ing. To all oth­ers, this is your in­vi­ta­tion to sched­ule other screen­ings, such as a skin cancer screen­ing or colonoscopy, as rec­om­mended by your doc­tor.

So while it is im­por­tant to run, 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.

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