Seeing pink everywhere recently? That’s definitely not by accident! October is breast cancer awareness month and many of America’s favorite brands and sports teams change their colors to pink to show their support.
According to breastcancer.org, 1 in 8 women will develop invasive breast cancer in the United States. In 2014 alone, an estimated 232,670 new cases will be diagnosed this year. Besides lung cancer, breast cancer has the highest death rate upon women in the United States. Surprisingly, the rate of getting breast cancer has only decreased by 7% in the last ten years.
This month we honor survivors, but sometimes the disease hits close to home.
My mother was diagnosed last year on September 11th. As if that day for New Yorkers couldn’t get any worse, mine did. She gave me a call to tell me that she had not one, but two different types of breast cancer–one in each breast. It felt like someone had shot me in the stomach. She knew immediately she had to go through a bilateral mastectomy and was extremely nervous about the procedure. I had heard of many older women getting diagnosed but I never imagined my mother’s life to be at risk. There is not much a daughter can do but be overwhelmingly upset when told this type of news. I offered the only thing I had: my unconditional support and thankfully it helped her get through. After a long and bumpy two-month healing period, my mom no longer has any cancer cells in her body and has made a full recovery.
Why is the number of women getting diagnosed not drastically changing with today’s knowledge and technology? Women need to change the way they think about cancer.
“I relied on my annual doctor’s appointment and never really checked myself,” my mom told me. “I also had such small breasts that I never thought in a million years I would get it.”
“No one in my family had a history of breast cancer either,” she added. “Thankfully they caught it early enough before it spread. I wish I had paid attention to the warning signs and symptoms, and maybe I wouldn’t have lost both breasts.”
Although breast cancer can be genetic, anyone can get it–including men. Women over 40 are at higher risk. Besides the annual mammogram from a gynecologist, it is CRUCIAL for women to take charge of their health.
According to the American Cancer Society, any of these unusual changes can be a symptom of breast cancer: swelling of all or part of the breast, skin irritation or dimpling, breast pain, nipple pain or the nipple turning inward, redness, dryness, or thickening of the nipple or breast skin, a nipple discharge other than breast milk or a lump in the underarm area.
Many promotions this month make it easy to show support. By buying certain products in pink packaging, most companies will donate a percentage of the profit to breast cancer foundations. Many organizations also hold cancer walks and donate 100% of the proceeds like the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer.