OUR OPINION: Breast cancer awareness needs year-round action

By NEMS Daily Journal

Today’s conclusion of Breast Cancer Awareness Month leaves a legacy of heightened awareness about a disease affecting directly and indirectly virtually every American family.
Seeking a cure for and the prevention of breast cancer – a disease long-hidden from public discussion and advocacy by concerns about propriety – has derived major benefit and public acceptance for the importance of developing cures and making preventive choices.
Events across Northeast Mississippi highlighted the emphasis, including the annual Race for the Cure in Tupelo, which attracted 3,800 participants to the heart of downtown. The race and some other breast cancer awareness events are affiliated with the Susan G. Komen Foundation, one of several nationwide nonprofits seeking cures and prevention.
The vast majority of breast cancer cases occur in females, but a few men also develop the disease.
Breast cancer is the most common invasive cancer in females worldwide. It accounts for 16 percent of all female cancers and 22.9 percent of invasive cancers in women; 18.2 percent of all cancer deaths worldwide, including both males and females, are from breast cancer.
Longer life expectancy in developed nations like the United States probably contributes to a higher rate than in many other nations. Breast cancer is most common among older women, and the longer one lives the more the odds of developing breast cancer increase.
Experts also believe that different lifestyles and eating habits of females in rich and poor countries are also contributing factors.
October has been designated a month to promote breast cancer awareness since 1985, and since 1992 its pink ribbon has been the official, highly visible, widely used symbol. The pink obviously spins off the disproportionate number of women who contract the malignancy. It helps draw attention to information about the disease, which points people to regular self-examinations and to the need for prompt medical attention if any suspicious symptoms are found.
The pink color, however, does not mask the dark realities about the disease: An estimated 226,870 women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012, and a projected 39,510 women will die of it.
The valuable lessons of October need to extend through the year.