The message of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month is simply: early detection of breast cancer followed by prompt treatment saves lives.
Breast cancer is the leading form of cancer in women in the United States. According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 232,340 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women this year. With numbers like this, it is likely that many of us will be -- or already have been -- personally affected by this horrific disease. It threatens our mothers, our wives, our sisters, our daughters and our friends.
Statistics show that women living in North America have the highest rate of breast cancer in the world, yet each passing year more women than ever are able to claim that they are breast cancer survivors. In fact, if it is detected early, the breast cancer survival rate is as high as 98 percent.
Although a way to prevent the disease remains unknown, early detection is the key to survival. Through the many billions of dollars committed each year through federal and private funds for research and prevention efforts, there continues to be very promising news and developments regarding the fight against breast cancer. However, despite this promising news, thousands of our mothers, daughters, wives, and friends continue to receive a devastating diagnosis and must battle this terrible disease.
According to the American Cancer Society, the best methods of early detection and survival of breast cancer are self-examination, clinical breast exams and mammograms. They recommend that women in their 20s and 30s should have a clinical breast exam as part of a regular health exam by a health professional, at least every 3 years. And, after age 40, women should have a breast exam by a health professional every year which includes a screening mammogram and should continue to do so for as long as they are in good health. The goal of screening exams, such as mammograms, is to find cancers before they start to cause symptoms. This is of critical importance because breast cancers that are found because they can be felt tend to be larger and are more likely to have already spread beyond the breast. In contrast, breast cancers found during screening exams are more likely to be small and still confined to the breast.
You can help raise awareness by getting involved. There are many groups throughout our state dedicated to breast cancer awareness, advocacy and prevention. They can provide detailed breast cancer information, locations of support groups, referrals to medical facilities and telephone counseling with breast cancer survivors. They can also tell you about low-cost or free mammography programs. And, for more information, you can visit the National Breast Cancer Awareness Month website at: www.nbcam.org
I've helped my colleagues in Congress find ways to support research into the causes of breast cancer so that, hopefully, we can find a cure and eradicate the disease. While these organizations, along with the American Cancer Society and the National Institutes of Health, look for a cure, I urge you to help support those with breast cancer in your own communities. By volunteering your time, helping to raise money or by simply giving a donation, we can come together to find an end to breast cancer.
My hope and prayer is that someday we will have the ability to eliminate all forms of cancer. Until then, we must take charge of our health through early detection and treatment. So remind those you love to take charge of their health, perform regular self-examinations and get check-ups that include mammograms.