OPINION: Breast Cancer Awareness Month an important time

This year two more of my dear friends were diagnosed with breast cancer. Both continue their therapies and are doing well, with strong friendships and family circles to support and sustain them, and facing the challenges with positive, upbeat attitudes.
During October each year, designated as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we emphasize the importance of early detection and treatment of the disease in order to bring about the most successful outcome.
Two ways that medical professionals encourage women to use to detect breast cancer early are monthly breast self-exams and annual mammograms. The American Cancer Society gives step-by-step instructions on how to perform a breast self-exam on its Web site at www.cancer.org.
For years I have scheduled my annual mammogram during October, when a number of hospitals and clinics offer screening mammograms at a reduced rate.
It was during such a routine exam in 2006 that I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Fortunately, early detection helped identify the disease at an early stage and reduced the extent of therapy I had to receive. Everything went smoothly and I have been cancer-free for more than two years.
I share this information publicly for the same reason that survivors participate in the many community awareness events scheduled not only in October but throughout the year.
The American Cancer Society says that one in eight women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime, so it is important that women who have not been diagnosed understand that illness can appear at any time and they need to be vigilant.
Another reason for survivors to talk about cancer is that we have SURVIVED. There is life after a cancer diagnosis, and it can be an abundant and fulfilling life if you look for and expect the best – keep that optimistic outlook that I mentioned is sustaining my friends.
Some factors put individuals at greater risk for developing breast cancer: gender, with women being 100 times more likely to develop breast cancer than men; age, as the risk increases as we age and is more common over age 35; a personal history of breast cancer; a family history of breast cancer; carrying the breast cancer gene; having first menstrual period at an early age; having a first pregnancy after age 25 or 35; having no children; and using hormone replacement therapy.
There are lifestyle choices, however, that have been shown to reduce breast cancer risk: reduce the amount of saturated and hydrogenated fats eaten daily; increase dietary fiber; eat fresh fruits and vegetables; limit alcohol; be active; and don’t smoke.
I hope these words will spur someone to ask a close friend or family member if she is getting a regular breast exam and mammogram. Offer to schedule an appointment for her, if necessary. If cost is an issue, tell her to call Susan G. Komen for the Cure – North Mississippi affiliate at (662) 377-4903 to ask about assistance.
There’s a little something we all can do.

Lena Mitchell is the Daily Journal Corinth Bureau reporter. Contact her at 287-9822 or lena.mitchell@djournal.com.

Lena Mitchel/NEMS Daily Journal