October is observed as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM). It started in 1985 as a campaign by the American Academy of Family Physicians, AstraZeneca Healthcare Foundation, CancerCare, and other organizations. The aim of this campaign is to encourage women to have mammograms for early detection of breast cancer. Today, many organizations are involved in this campaign and it has almost become a year-long event. In addition to raising awareness, BCAM’s goals also include raising funds for breast cancer research and support.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer seen in the American women. According to the CDC, each year more than 250,000 women in the U.S. are affected by breast cancer, and 42,000 women die from it. Breast cancer is commonly found in women who are 50 years or older, but it also affects younger women.Presently, there is no sufficient knowledge on the causes of breast cancer, the developments in the science of epigenetics shows that a while person may have a genetic predisposition for this disease, the external and internal environment play critical roles in how that gene is expressed.
Breast cancer is believed to be caused by genetic, hormonal, and environmental factors and risks increase with age. If breast cancer is detected early, more treatment options would be available, increasing the chances of survival and improved quality of life.
Thesymptoms of breast cancer include:
- Change in breast size or shape
- A new lump or swelling in the underarm or breast
- Nipple discharge (including blood)
- Pain anywhere in the breast
- Change in breast colour
As some people do not show any symptoms at all, it is very important to self-examine your breasts regularly. If you notice any unusual changes, see your doctor right away to find out if it’s cancer.
Since 1993, the third Friday of October is observed as National Mammography Day to remind women that early detection is the best defence. In 2020, National Mammography Day falls on October 16. Mammography screening uses low-dose X-rays for breast imaging. Women in their early 40’s should have mammograms annually. Early detection is important for treatment at the earliest possible stage, which can improve outcomes. Mammograms can detect the signs of breast cancer years before the symptoms occur. According to the study conducted by Radiological Society of North America, women who have risk factors such as family history, personal history of breast cancer, or dense breasts, may benefit from beginning screening mammography at the age of 30.
The Breast Cancer Research Foundation was founded in 1993 and the pink ribbon was used to symbolize breast cancer at that time. Now, the pink ribbon is the symbol for breast cancer awareness. During Breast Cancer Awareness Month, numerous activities to promote awareness will take place across the country. Many famous buildings and landmarks will light up in pink to mark the campaign.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month is about increasing the awareness of the disease. Understand your risks and things you can do to lower them. Eat healthy, stay active, and don’t miss your annual screening.