National Breast Cancer Awareness Month was founded in part by the American Cancer Society in October of 1985 to promote mammography as the most effective means of fighting breast cancer. The event’s symbolic pink ribbon was originally used in 1991 by Charlotte Haley in order to call attention to what she perceived as a deficit of funding for breast cancer treatment research. Her sister, daughter, and granddaughter all suffered from the ailment at the time. Haley’s symbol was adopted by The Breast Cancer Research Foundation two years later, and today it serves as a ubiquitous reminder for women everywhere to do what they’re able to safeguard themselves from breast cancer.
About one in eight American women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. Although the mortality rate for the ailment has decreased over recent years due in part to improvements in diagnosis and treatment, over 40,000 women in the U.S. are expected to pass away from breast cancer in 2017 alone. Mortality rates for breast cancer are higher than those of any other type of cancer with the exception of lung cancer. A woman’s risk of breast cancer nearly doubles if she has a mother, sister, or daughter who has suffered from the ailment. Despite this, 85% of breast cancers occur in women with no family history of the disease. Such cases may be attributable to age and environmental factors.
Although regular breast cancer screenings via mammography do not prevent breast cancer, they do alert women to when they have breast cancer in its earlier stages and when it’s more treatable, and they do save lives. For most women, regular mammograms are recommended at age 40 and older, although specific recommendations vary by age and risk, such as family history of the ailment. If you are between the ages of 40 and 44, you may choose to begin yearly mammograms, and you are encouraged to speak with a doctor about having them done. If you are between the ages of 45 and 54, yearly mammograms are recommended. If you are 55 or older, mammograms are recommended every other year, but may still be performed yearly.
There are a number of other ways to help prevent breast cancer from occurring. These are the limitation of alcohol, the avoidance of tobacco, maintaining a healthy weight, regular exercise, choosing to breastfeed, limitation of the doses of and duration of hormone therapy, and avoidance of radiation and environmental pollution. Certain diets help to prevent the occurrence of breast cancer as well. For example, women who eat a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil and mixed nuts might reduce their risk of breast cancer.
We applaud the efforts of people everywhere who help to bring public awareness to breast cancer this October and throughout the year. Breast cancer is a dreadful thing, and we dearly hope for the day when it may be done away with once and for all.
By David Scheller