Fight breast cancer with awareness, early detection and some fun events
By Mary Wade Triplett
Coincidentally, Louis-Dreyfus released the news—via a tweet citing the statistic—just before October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month. That makes it a great time to discuss what women should do to avoid breast cancer and what steps to take to detect it early.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides a lot of guidance on this topic. First, let’s start with ways to avoid getting breast cancer. Exercising and maintaining a healthy weight are recommended, as is avoiding alcohol or limiting yourself to no more than one drink a day.
Also, avoid exposure to chemicals that cause cancer as well as any unnecessary exposure to radiation and X-rays. If you are taking oral contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy, discuss risk factors with your physician.
And finally, if possible, breastfeed any babies you give birth to. Breastfeeding is thought to help protect women against cancer for a few reasons. These include the fact that mothers tend to practice healthier eating habits when they breastfeed. They also have fewer menstrual cycles, added to the ones they missed while being pregnant, which results in lower estrogen levels.
Eligible families can find guidance and help with breastfeeding through the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) at the Monongalia County Health Department (MCHD). WIC also celebrates World Breastfeeding Week in August with an annual Breastfeeding Awareness Walk.
Still, each year in the U.S., more than 200,000 women get breast cancer and more than 40,000 women die from the disease. Men also can get breast cancer, but less than 1 percent of breast cancers occur in men. You also are more likely to be diagnosed with it if you are 50 years old or older; however, about 10 percent of new cases of breast cancer occur in American women younger than 45 years old.
So in addition to keeping fit and healthy, doing monthly breast exams and having regular checkups and mammograms are great detection tools to catch any breast cancer early. Breast cancer screening begins at home. Knowing what your breasts look and feel like will help alert you to any changes that you might want to bring to the attention of a physician. Several websites, including this one, illustrate how to do this.
Then there are annual clinical breast exams to detect any lumps, a service offered at MCHD for women 21 to 65 years old. We also can refer women who qualify through the West Virginia Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Program (WVBCCSP) for mammograms at Betty Puskar Breast Care Center at the WVU Cancer Institute or Mon Health Medical Center.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that women who are 50 to 74 years old and are at average risk for breast cancer get mammograms every two years. Women who are 40 to 49 years old should talk to their doctor or other health care professional about when to start and how often to get a mammogram. Women should weigh the benefits of screening tests when deciding whether to begin getting mammograms at age 40.
Because it is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, there are plenty of activities that you can participate in to help fight this disease. Supporting the WVU women’s soccer team is always fun, and this Sunday, October 8, fans are encouraged to wear pink to the 2 p.m. game against Oklahoma that takes place at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium. The team will celebrate its annual fundraising efforts for the WVU Cancer Institute at halftime.
Another event, Dine Out for BRA Day, sounds like a really great way to support breast reconstruction awareness for women who have undergone mastectomies. The Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons of WVU Medicine partner with area restaurants. If you patronize a participating eatery on Wednesday, October 18, a percentage of the proceeds will go toward medication and transportation costs and other support services to uninsured and underinsured women seeking break reconstruction. To find the list of eating establishments, go to WVU Cancer Institute’s Facebook page or Twitter account.
A few days later, the Morgantown branch of the American Cancer Center will hold the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer 5K run and walk, on Saturday, October 21. Registration begins at 9 a.m. and there is no entry fee, although some participants form teams and do fundraising for breast cancer research.
Later that day, at 1 p.m. October 21, the WVU volleyball team will take on Kansas State at the WVU Coliseum. The team will don pink jerseys in support of breast cancer awareness and fans are encouraged to wear pink too. With a donation of $10 or more to the WVU Cancer Institute, fans can also receive the official pink shirt of WVU Athletics.
Even though the leaves on the trees are turning gold, orange and red, think pink this October as you consider all the different ways to help yourself and others prevent or fight breast cancer.