By Brian Loschiavo
October 1, 2009

Has breast cancer somehow affected your life? Has someone close to you battled the disease or lost the battle? Well you are definitely not alone. According to the American Cancer Society, one in eight women in the United states is diagnosed with breast cancer.

As we enter the month of October, which is breast cancer awareness month, it is time to talk to our loved ones and friends about breast cancer and to remember those who have lost the fight. What are they doing to prevent and detect the disease? Are we knowledgeable enough about the disease?

Each year it is estimated that nearly 200,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and more than 40,000 will die. These cases would be added to the already 2.5 million women in the U.S. with a history of breast cancer.

Excluding non-melanoma skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women and is second only to lung cancer as a cause of cancer death in women. It accounts for nearly one in three cancers diagnosed in women in the U.S. Though this form of cancer is most common in females, it does not mean it will not occur in men. Approximately 1,700 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer and 450 will die each year.

Though breast cancer numbers are continually rising, the death rates in breast cancer in women have declined since 1990. The decline is attributed to improvements in detection and advances in treatment and increased awareness. The five year survival rate among women with breast cancer improves in the earlier stage of cancer. For women whose disease is diagnosed when it is localized, there is a 96 percent survival rate. The rate decreases significantly if the disease has spread to other areas of the body.

On average, mammography will detect 80 to 90 percent of breast cancer cases in women without symptoms. Regular mammograms are the single most effective way to help detect early breast cancer. This is why it is so crucial for our loved ones to go for their recommended annual breast cancer screening.

If your family has a history of breast cancer it is much more important to go for your regular screenings and to perform breast self-exams at least once a month. Women with a mother, sister or daughter affected by breast cancer have a greater risk of developing the disease themselves.

Based on the most recent data, 89 percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer will be living five years after the diagnosis and 80 percent will survive 10 years. There have been significant advances in the past decade in the areas of breast cancer detection and treatment. Researchers continue to search for a cure for the disease.

Early detection, knowing your risk factors, signs and symptoms are all key to prevention and survival against the disease.

As a society we need to become more aware about breast cancer and how it could affect the people we love and care about. We should not just wait for October to roll around every year to think about the disease and the impact that it could have or has had on our lives. Hearing the words ‘breast cancer’ doesn’t always mean the end to something. It can be the beginning of learning how to fight, getting the facts and finding hope. To learn more about breast cancer go to nationalbreastcancer.org.

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Brian Loschiavo

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