What is Breast Cancer Awareness?

drdrugasThankfully, we’ve reached a point where most people know October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. But, what are you aware of beyond the pink ribbons and bows and their association with this terrible disease? Are you aware that one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime or that 230,000 women are diagnosed each year? Are you aware that, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), an average of 448 women in Will County alone are diagnosed with Breast Cancer each year.

Those numbers are staggering and sometimes frightening. But there’s something else you should be aware of. I want you to be aware of hope, of compassion, of survivorship and I want you to be aware of perhaps something even more important. I want you to be aware that you alone have the ability to take the first swing at beating cancer. You’re the one that makes the call. You’re the one that schedules the mammogram. You’re the one that chooses to fight if you hear the word cancer. And, if you need us, we’ll be here to fight with you.

You’re no doubt aware of all the scary statistics—but are you also aware that breast cancer is highly treatable if caught early? We’ve come a long way in our ability to detect and treat cancer with exciting new technologies like 3D digital mammography and personalized cancer treatments based on genetic testing. But, it really does start with you.

There’s one more very important thing I want you to be aware of.

There are almost three million breast cancer survivors alive in the United States right now? THREE MILLION SURVIVORS! And, as we continue to raise awareness and get better and better at beating cancer, that number will continue to grow.

So, I leave you with this:

Be aware of the risks. Be aware of the screening guidelines (see below). Be aware of changes in your body. But most importantly, be aware of hope and your own ability to beat this disease if you have to.

Diane M. Drugas, MD, FACS
Presence Medical Group 

Dr. Drugas is a General Surgeon specializing in Breast Biopsies, Breast Cancer Surgery and General Breast Surgery at Presence Health.

The American Cancer Society offers the following Guidelines for the Early Detection of Cancer Breast Cancer.

  • Women ages 40 to 44 should have the choice to start annual breast cancer screening with mammograms (X-rays of the breast) if they wish to do so.
  • Women age 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year.
  • Women 55 and older should switch to mammograms every 2 years or can continue yearly screening.
  • Screening should continue as long as a woman is in good health and is expected to live 10 more years or longer.

All women should be familiar with the known benefits, limitations, and potential harms linked to breast cancer screening. They also should know how their breasts normally look and feel and report any breast changes to a health care provider right away.

Some women—because of their family history, a genetic tendency, or certain other factors—should be screened with MRIs along with mammograms. (The number of women who fall into this category is very small.) Talk with a health care provider about your risk for breast cancer and the best screening plan for you.

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