October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This issue has touched the lives of so many that I know personally. And, as an elected official, I am well aware that the decisions we make in public policy influences every aspect of how we combat this disease. From increasing the amount of breast cancer research funding to ensuring better access to treatment, federal and state officials play a key role in eradicating breast cancer.
Our collective goal as a society should be continuously working towards ending this disease in our lifetime. That means the way we think and talk about breast cancer has to change. The conversation needs to be more focused and aggressive towards ending it. We have to bring together people from a wide range of disciplines, both medical and nonmedical, to leverage existing resources and identify tools, technology and methods our country has already invested in that could have a major impact on ending breast cancer and saving lives.
In the past, a diagnosis of breast cancer was grim news. Today, there is far more than a glimmer of hope based on hard science. Women who have aggressive breast cancer, for example, are living longer. And yet, taking the broader view, so much more is needed. Breast cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths among women in the United States and has a particularly devastating impact on women of color. In New Jersey, rates of breast and cervical cancer have risen 6.3 percent for all women between 2009 and 2013. However, the rate of breast cancer in black women has risen 8.1 percent and a whopping 25.8 percent for Latina women, according to Planned Parenthood.
There is widespread support for cancer research and treatment and the wearing of pink best exemplifies the success of the messaging campaign and the importance of the issue. However, we must not become complacent about Breast Cancer Awareness Month and its importance. Our cancer facts at the end of this blog make it clear that we continue to have a battle on our hands.
There is also a practical reason that we celebrate National Breast Cancer month and the symbolic pink associated with it: the need to remember and a reminder of what to do.
We are instructed each year, during daylight savings time, to replace the batteries in our smoke alarms. A sensible safety precaution for all. The effort to turn the clocks back propels us into action regarding battery replacement. I would like to believe that the symbolic nature of this month serves that same purpose. Information about cancer is now easy to obtain because of the internet. But what is especially important this month is that you act. If you don’t get a physical or mammogram, if you are apprehensive, scared or unsure, go to your health provider and just ask, “What should I be doing about breast cancer?” If you are husband, brother or son, ask the woman closest to you whether she is receiving the assistance and advice she needs. A superb source for help is available here.
We will find a cure for breast cancer. And until we do, during October, every woman should seek her appropriate medical expert regarding breast cancer screening and prevention. And the rest of us should ensure that the women we love receive the care and comfort they deserve.
That’s my take, what’s yours?
Facts about breast cancer in the United States:
- One in eight women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime.
- Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women.
- Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among women.
- Each year it is estimated that more than 252,710 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer and more than 40,500 will die.
- On average, every 2 minutes, a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer, and one woman will die of breast cancer every 13 minutes.
- More than 3.3 million breast cancer survivors are alive in the United States today.
Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; World Health Organization.