Awareness is just the first step
We’ve had plenty of noise so far into this National Football League season about who’s standing, who’s kneeling, who’s showing up and who’s leaving early. Lots of controversy, lots of disagreement.
But here’s something we can all agree on: Cancer needs to be defeated once and for all, and the league is behind that.
The NFL is again encouraging players to wear something pink — cleats or gloves or wristbands — to especially commemorate this month as one of awareness about breast cancer. In fact, the league’s Crucial Catch program, partnering with the American Cancer Society, has expanded to include other colors to bring light to the fight against all forms of cancer. There were already at least a handful of players in each game this weekend decoratively decked out, and you expect to see more as the month goes on.
And whether or not you think pink looks good on a 350-pound lineman, what it represents is worthy of our attention.
But wearing and displaying pink to raise awareness about breast cancer is the centerpiece of the month, so let’s examine the numbers.
With one in eight women being 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 and what they are going through.
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 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 Enterprise will feature the pink breast cancer awareness ribbon in the flag at the top of 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 as the NFL and the American Cancer Society are stressing throughout October, 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. Those individual victories can go a long way in helping us win the big fight against cancer.