October 1: The start of breast cancer awareness month

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Pink Breast Cancer RibbonIt s hard to believe that anyone can not be aware of breast cancer (BC) these days, when the disease, putative causes and varying types of treatments are constantly the news. It s good to remind people, however, that breast cancer is not fully understood, that there may be more than one type, and that while life expectancy post-treatment has been increasing, there is no certain cure. Thus, the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc. has declared October to be BC awareness month, with the goal of encouraging people to have appropriate plans to detect the disease.

The most important point the foundation makes is that when BC is detected early when it has not spread to other tissues the 5-year survival rate is 98 percent. Thus it is really important to catch it as early as possible. Mammograms are the first line of defense , and while the age of first screening is hotly debated, in conjunction with one s health care provider, a woman should take into account her personal history as well as her family history. For example, is there evidence of early BC in close relatives? Did the woman have significant evidence of fibrocystic disease at an early age? Does her genetic background suggest she may carry one of the breast cancer genes that could result in an early presentation of the disease? All these factors should be taken into account.

The National Cancer Institute estimates that in 2014, there will be 232,670 (female); 2,360 (male) new cases (yes, men can get it too); and 40,000 (female); 430 (male) deaths from the disease.

For more information about BC, besides the above sites, you can review ACSH s publication which not only provides some basic information about the disease, but also evaluates the many organizations which purport to provide accurate information.

ACSH s Dr. Ruth Kava comments Simply surfing the web for information about BC can lead one astray, as there are organization devoted to the unsupported theory that breast cancer is due primarily to environmental contamination, which it is not. Consumers should be concerned about the disease, and should also be concerned about finding accurate, scientifically sound information about detection and treatment. The sites recommended above will provide this information, and should always be considered from the perspective of an individual s own risk factors.