by Mindi Rudan
Growing up in New Jersey, the month of October was actually so exciting, it was the true “fall” month. Whereas September was the month that summer sort of lingered into. In September you knew fall was almost here but you still squeezed out the last vestiges of summertime: entertaining outside, taking advantage of the longer days, and the bounty the garden still oozed in what we called “Indian summer.”
But October? Now you were talking full on AUTUMN!! The leaves were in full kaleidoscopic glory, the nights got significantly cooler and longer, even some of the days got downright “nippy.” And there it was, HALLOWEEN right smack at the end of the month! You got your costume ready, prayed it wouldn’t be so cold that your mom made you were a coat OVER your costume and started dreaming of the coming sugar rush and putting up orange pumpkins, scary grey skeletons, and even scarier black spiders.
There was no pink in the picture.
Today in October, it seems like orange and black almost take a backseat to pink.
Now, October is synonymous with BREAST CANCER AWARENESS. And the reality of why is way scarier than anything Halloween.
And while it might feel like breast cancer is much more prevalent these days, there’s actually good AND bad news on that front.
Breast cancer IS absolutely the most common cancer in women in the United States, (except for skin cancers). It accounts for 30% (or 1 in 3) of all new FEMALE cancers each year.
The American Cancer Society’s estimates for breast cancer in the United States for 2023 are:
And while in recent years, breast cancer rates have steadily increased by 0.5% per year, the good news is: Breast cancer death rates have been decreasing steadily since 1989, for an overall decline of 43% through 2020. The decrease in death rates is believed to be the result of exactly what THIS article is hopefully going to do: Light a fire under you to get screened.
But make no mistake. Breast cancer is terrifying, it’s every woman’s nightmare and the second leading cause of cancer death in women. (Only lung cancer kills more women each year.) The chance that a woman will die from breast cancer is about 1 in 39 (about 2.5%). So while the decrease in breast cancer deaths is certainly encouraging, it is due to one thing, and ONE thing ONLY—finding breast cancer early through screening and increased awareness, (as well as better treatments), hence the “pink-ing” of the month of October and the life-saving info in this article.
And here’s what’s sobering: since statistics proving a decrease in deaths since 1989, for the first time in years that encouraging decline has slowed slightly in recent years and the fear is that some woman have simply gotten complacent perhaps thinking: “It’s not gonna happen to me.” OR “Breast cancer doesn’t ‘run’ in my family.” All self-soothing BS.
There is no esteemed data, no scientific information better than this simple but honest truth: the best way to beat breast cancer is to rule it out or find it early. There is nothing as comforting as hearing: “You’re all clear, come back next year.”
For the wussiest among us, putting it off is not just the ostrich syndrome, it’s downright stupid and selfish— especially if you have a family. Life with you may have ups and downs- life for your family WITHOUT YOU? Is a road so difficult to navigate that it will shadow every happy occasion ever after. And with how good —AND EASY the testing is today, it’s downright stupid not to take advantage of it. For the literally 6 seconds x 4 views your boobs are “schmushed” like a pancake to test you, the freedom from worry, from the pain of going through treatment, the soul-gripping uncertainty that becomes your EVERY day and for some—the horrifying fear that your family will be scarred for life, is a small price to pay. Today’s testing is a life saving gift. If nothing in this article resonates with you other than these two little words: GET SCREENED, that is the best gift you can give yourself and those who love you.
Not knowing can AND WILL kill you. No one is too busy, no one is immune and no excuse for NOT being screened is acceptable. TAKE THE TIME. Make the call.
The average risk of a woman in the United States developing breast cancer sometime in her lifetime is about 13%. This means there is a 1 in 8 chance YOU WILL develop breast cancer. This does indeed also mean there is a 7 in 8 chance you will never have the disease— but what if YOU ARE THAT ONE? What will that do to your life, your family’s life, your psyche, your career, your plans and your dreams? Is taking an hour out of your life once a year to get screened too problematic?
Being diagnosed with it is far worse.
Recently the Today Show’s perky ‘Steals and Deals’ reporter Jill Martin revealed she had breast cancer. The nation watched in real time as she shared the unthinkable. Martin underwent a double mastectomy and found out she had Stage 2 breast cancer sharing the diagnosis on TODAY on July 17.
During the surgery, her doctors found an aggressive tumor that had spread into one lymph node and removed more than a dozen additional lymph nodes, she said recently giving an update.
“That’s the first step. And so I’m grateful that we caught it,” she continued. “I’m grateful that there is a treatment plan going forward, but it’s a long road, and emotionally — and anybody will tell you this — it is earth shattering.”
She went public not for pity nor praise, but to spare any other woman from this hurt.
In a time most women want shut-down privacy, her hope is to compel women to “GET SCREENED.”
Why early detection? According to the American Cancer Society, when breast cancer is detected early, and is in the localized stage, the 5-year relative survival rate is 99%! Early detection includes doing monthly breast self-exams, and scheduling regular clinical breast exams and mammograms.
The early detection of breast cancer through annual mammography and other breast exams is the best defense against receiving a late-stage breast cancer diagnosis. Generally speaking, the earlier the cancer is detected, the greater the likelihood of a successful outcome.
Why go thru unnecessary heartache IF YOU COULD PREVENT IT?
Most early-stage breast cancers in the U.S. are found with screening mammography, before any warning signs or symptoms appear.
However, breast cancer also is found when there are warning signs. So, it’s important to be aware of these warning signs and see a health care provider if you notice ANY breast changes.
The warning signs of breast cancer are not the same for all women.
The most common warning signs are:
For those at average risk, have a mammogram every year starting at age 40. If you have any signs of breast cancer, finding it early and treating it early may save your life. If you have a physician call them. If you don’t, almost any local hospital has an entire department dedicated to helping you. There are free screenings if you don’t have insurance. But if you think you can’t afford a mammogram, think about what having cancer will cost you.
So while the country’s position on Halloween as October’s main focus may have shifted slightly over the last four decades— now also recognizing October as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, this year YOU SHOULD TOO.
The Susan G. Komen® Breast Care Helpline provides information about breast health, breast cancer, local and national resources and information about clinical trials. If you or a loved one needs more information, call 1-877 GO KOMEN (1-877-465-6636) or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The American Cancer Society offers information, answers, and hope.
Available every minute of every day.
Cancer.net offers Disease-specific support resources · General Helpline: 844-275-7427 · Breast Cancer Helpline in English and Spanish: 844-271-7427.
Mindi Rudan is a writer, former publisher of PARKLAND / CORAL SPRINGS Life, Coconut Creek Life and BOCA Delray Life magazines, a pet mom, event planner and now crazy wreath maker. You can follow her on FB https://www.facebook.com/mindi.rudan?mibextid=LQQJ4d.
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