International Breast Cancer Prevention and Awareness month is observed throughout the month of October. Sponsored walks, runs, clothing drives, craft fairs and many more events are hosted by charities and private groups to raise awareness and funds for research and prevention of the disease.
Landmarks around the world – from the White House in Washington DC to the Tokyo Tower in Japan – are traditionally illuminated in pink to show support for the cause. Since 2009 the NFL has shown their support by players and referees sporting various items of official gear in pink, which is later auctioned off with proceeds donated to CHANGE, the American Cancer Society’s Community Health Advocates National Grants for Empowerment program. CHANGE provides screenings for women in under-served communities.
The combination of mammography and check-ups is currently the best first line of defense. According to the National Cancer Institute, “Getting a high-quality screening mammogram and having a clinical breast exam (done by a health care provider) on a regular basis are the most effective ways to detect breast cancer early.”
The National Institutes of Health report that some women with increased risk factors are advised by doctors to take preventative medications like Tamoxifen or Raloxifene. Like many medications, these carry a risk of side effects. Others determined to be at extremely high risk of developing the disease are choosing prophylactic mastectomy. After examining risk factors such as family history and genetic markers, a woman and her doctor can decide if the benefits outweigh the risks when choosing a course of action.
Women and their doctors are choosing from and utilizing a combination of surgery, medication (chemotherapy) and radiation treatments available. With early detection, prevention and ever changing treatment options, 5 year survival rates are very good and getting better all the time.
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