It's almost October and that means Breast Cancer Awareness Month is here. Since everyone is at risk, including men, here are some important breast cancer awareness facts:
Every 13 minutes, a woman dies of breast cancer in the U.S. Women of all ages from 15-99 are at risk for developing the disease.
200,000 women will be diagnosed this year. Over 40,000 of them will die of the disease.
Breast cancer is the second only to heart disease as the leading cause of death in women.
One in eight women or 12.6% of all women will get breast cancer in her lifetime.
Breast cancer risk increases with age: 77% of women with breast cancer are over 50. 7% are under 40.
Here's the kicker about breast cancer: men are at risk as well. Every day, 1 man dies of breast cancer in this country. While the risk is small, 1% of all breast cancers occur in men, 80-90% of those are invasive ductal carcinomas. Approximately 1500 men will be diagnosed every year and over 400 of them will die of the disease.
Regular readers of this column will recall that I was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer (DCIS) earlier this year. I am one of the lucky ones. I've been religious about having yearly mammograms and this year was the year my results came back "suspicious". Nine mammograms, two biopsies, an MRI, one lumpectomy and two breast reductions later, I can happily report that I am cancer-free and celebrating life. It was not an easy journey, but I am grateful to be free of cancer and not having to undergo continued treatment.
Some are not so fortunate. In my case, there was no mass. My cancer, still in the non-invasive stage, took the form of micro-calcifications. Breast self exams would not have revealed the disease at this stage. Had it not been picked up on the mammogram, it would have eventually progressed to the tumor stage where a self-exam might have discovered it. By then, it could have also progressed to a more aggressive or invasive form, requiring more aggressive treatment.
For many women and men, the earliest signs of breast cancer most often show up as a lump, often discovered by doing a self-examination. Many women resist doing them however, especially younger women who tend to believe they're not at risk.
In an attempt to raise awareness and deliver the message to the 40 and under set, some new approaches are being utilized.
Last week, HuffPost ran an article on Canadian MTV Host Aliya-Jasmine's viral promotion for the "Booby Ball, Save The Boobs" campaign for breast cancer awareness. Some critics voiced concern the ad goes too far to make it's point. The Huff Post article asked readers' opinions: "Is this video ad too sexy?" See for yourself:
The PSA is the brainchild of M.J. Decoteau, founder of Rethink Breast Cancer, who says her organization had to find a way to reach young people who believe they're invincible to a disease that, in reality, is the leading cause of cancer deaths in young women under 40.
While breast cancer is rare in younger women and makes up just 7% of all reported cancer cases, it tends to be more aggressive and less responsive to treatment, due to the density of younger women's breasts. Younger women also are more likely to ignore early warning signs, such as a lump or nipple discharge, believing they are not at risk for developing the disease. Thus the need to raise awareness among the younger population of the necessity to do self-exams.
Towards that end, the national Feel Your Boobies Foundation is sponsoring its annual "Are YOU Doing It?" reminder campaign from Oct. 9-16. The intention is to use "unexpected and unconventional methods to remind women to feel their boobies".
You might be lying on the beach and see an airplane towing an "Are You Doing It?" banner, or do your daily commute on a "Boobies Bus". Or someone might ask you to join the nearly 61,000 others who've become fans of the foundation on Facebook. Here's the link if you'd like to join.
You can also support free mammograms for low income women who cannot afford them by clicking here. The advertisers who promote their products on the site will sponsor a mammogram for each click. Go ahead, click. It'll cost you nothing and you could save a life.
Women, don't forget to "feel your boobies". You can order T-shirts, bumper stickers and even design your "boobicon" for your Facebook page here. And men.... jump in! Get involved! Be a gentle reminder to your wife, sister, mother or girlfriend. Helping to raise awareness about breast cancer might save the life of someone you love .
What is your take on the video? Did it go too far? Is this the most effective way to reach the targeted population? What are your ideas for increasing awareness of breast cancer? Please drop by the comment section below or leave a comment on my personal website and blog at Rx For The Soul. You can also leave personal messages for me on the web site.
Thanks for being here and for being part of this vibrant reader community.
Blessings on the path.......
Follow Dr. Judith Rich on Twitter: www.twitter.com/dr_judithrich