Early detection is key to breast cancer fight

Everyone is wearing pink this month. Pro and college football players are donning pink socks and sporting other pink accessories. Even the referees are throwing pink flags instead of the traditional yellow.

High school and little league football teams as well as volleyball teams have added pink to their usual team colors. The entire staff of Salem Community Hospital was asked to wear pink Friday. Why pink? It’s the official color of National Breast Cancer Awareness month, celebrated each October. Each year the Morning Journal publishes a special supplement on pink paper with valuable information about this disease.

Why is this so important? According to the Center for Disease Control, in 2009 (the most recent year for which statistics are available)-211,731 women and 2,001 men in the United States were diagnosed with breast cancer; and 40,676 women and 400 men in the U.S. died from it.

The purpose of Breast Cancer Awareness month is to educate people about the symptoms of breast cancer, as well as the best ways to prevent, detect and treat this potentially deadly disease.

So, what are the symptoms of breast cancer?

According to the CDC, breast cancer is difficult to detect, because when it starts out, it is usually too small to feel and does not immediately display symptoms. As it grows, breast cancer can cause changes in how the breast looks or feels. Symptoms may include:

*A lump in the breast or underarm (armpit).

* Thickening or swelling of part of the breast.

* Irritation or dimpling of breast skin.

* Redness or flaky skin in the nipple area or the breast.

* Distortion of the nipple or pain in the nipple area.

* Nipple discharge other than breast milk, including blood.

* Any change in the size or the shape of the breast.

* Pain in any area of the breast.

The best way to find breast cancer early is with a mammogram. If you are a woman age 50 years or older, the CDC urges you to have a screening mammogram every two years. Early detection is key to successful treatment. The National Breast Cancer Foundation also encourages adult women of all ages to perform a monthly breast exam. For instructions on how to perform the exam see the NBCF website at www.nationalbreastcancer.org/breast-self-exam.

While most of the focus is on women, men also suffer from the disease as well, albeit at a significantly lower rate. In fact, the third week of October has been designated as Male Breast Cancer Awareness Week.

If you’re a woman, everytime you see pink this month, we hope it will remind you to schedule a mammogram soon and be proactive in protecting yourself against this disease. And men, when you see pink, check yourself for symptoms and remind the women in your life to get checked out as well.