People confronted with major health issues often feel isolated and alone -- a feeling that few really know and understand what they are going through. That can certainly be true of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer.
In the U.S., where women are concerned, breast cancer is the second-most common cancer (skin cancer is first) and is second only to lung cancer as the leading cause of death. An estimated 226,870 women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with breast cancer and roughly 40,000 women will die from the disease this year, according to the American Cancer Society.
Fortunately, Utah consistently has one of the lowest incidence rates for breast cancer in the nation. The same is true of mortality rates, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However reassuring that may seem, it can provide little solace for Utahns who contract the disease and face an uncertain future.
That's why October is so important. It is Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM), which major charities organize each year to increase public awareness, raise funds for research and provide much-needed information to those who are affected by breast cancer.
This helps breast cancer patients know they are not alone. It also educates the public, rallies support to the cause and promotes the use of mammography, which clinical trials have determined can detect the disease early and thus reduce deaths by as much as 30 percent in women ages 50 to 69 and 17 percent in women ages 40 to 49, according to the Utah Department of Health.
Herimann resident Cori Wahlin knows firsthand how important that support and early detection can be. Her mother died from breast cancer at age 46, and her grandmother succumbed to the disease at 39. She assumed she would be next. But with the support of the Huntsman Cancer Clinic and other organizations, she received yearly mammograms that detected the cancer in its early stages when she was 34. She credits that assistance with saving her life.
Utahns seeking the latest information about breast cancer -- assistance, treatment options and support groups, just to name a few -- can access a number of websites, including the state's Utah Cancer Control Program (www.cancerutah.org), the Utah Cancer Action Network (www.ucan.cc), and the Huntsman Cancer Institute (www.huntsmancancer.org), among others.
It's also important for each of us to get involved. Dozens of events will take place across Utah this month in commemoration of BCAM. For instance, as part of their "Dig for a Cure" campaign, Utah State University volleyball players are soliciting 25-cent donations for each dig they record in their seven home matches during October. Half the proceeds will be donated to the Logan Regional Hospital to assist in fighting breast cancer; the rest will go to support the team.
Another fundraiser, the American Cancer Society's Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, is scheduled Oct. 13, at 8 a.m. in Salt Lake City's Liberty Park. Contact health and cancer agencies where you live to find out about BCAM events taking place in your community.
By supporting and participating in such events, we too can enlist in the fight and demonstrate our solidarity with Utahns who are battling breast cancer. And as we open our hearts, let us not forget to open our wallets and give generously of our time -- to show breast cancer patients and survivors that however long and hard their walk or journey may be, that they will never have to walk alone.