Since the day my grandmother came home with a pre-cancerous growth on her breast, Breast Cancer Awareness has been a cause near and dear to my heart. Since that time, Breast Cancer Awareness Month has been an issue that I think about often. Especially in October. Afterall, what could a gal prefer to save more than the women in her life?
While most of us know that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, did you also know today is also National Mammography Day? A day observed annually on the third Friday in October, first proclaimed a national celebratory day by President Bill Clinton, on this date in 1993.
The goal of this observance: to remind everyone that early breast tumor detection is the best defense against breast cancer and that mammography screening is the single most effective method of early detection.
While many medical experts agree, mammograms are the standard in early in breast cancer detection, it also stands that a single mammogram isn’t enough. Mammograms must be a part of a regularly scheduled women’s health regime. This allows for any changes to your overall breast health to be denoted, screened, and if necessary, clinically tested to rule out a possible Breast Cancer diagnosis.
While you may already be aware that all women are at risk for breast cancer, but did you know that one in eight American women, without a history of breast cancer in their family, will develop breast cancer in their lifetimes? That an estimated 232,340 new cases of breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women this year in the United States. That breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed non-skin cancer in women in the United States. And that the average woman without a family history of breast cancer should begin annual mammogram screenings at age 40 and for those with a family history of breast cancer should start annual screenings as soon as her early 20’s, but no later than a decade in years from your relative’s age of diagnosis!
Women are also not alone in this fight. As men can get breast cancer too! According to the American Cancer Society, this year its estimated that 2,240 American men will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Making National Mammography Day, not only a matter of annual national importance all Americans but stands to reason that mammography is the single best reasons that breast cancer survivors comprise the largest group of cancer survivors in the United States today.
Mammography not only saves lives through pre-cancerous breast tumor detection but is currently the only exam approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to effectively screen for breast cancer in women who have no outward symptoms of the condition, such as visible breast lumps.
Because mammography often detects smaller, less advanced tumors this testing is a crucial tool for oncologists. Mammographies help patients to start early treatments and in doing so, makes early diagnosed breast cancer patients pose less of a likelihood of breast cancer spreading to lymph nodes or metastasizing to other vital organs. Detection that may not be available to women who do not have regular annual mammograms.
But even mammograms are not the final word when it comes to breast cancer prevention. In addition to having regular mammography screenings, women should take charge of their breast health by making breast health part of your self-care routine at home.
A routine that starts by understanding your risks for developing breast cancer, learning the proper way to perform a breast self-exam every month at home, documenting your family history of breast cancer, and to implement a trust circle of hope in your life. A personal network of loved ones committed to reminding you of your annual scheduled mammograms, friends ready to accompany you to your medical provider if you experience any unusual pain, lumps, discharge, or changes to your overall breast health, and those who expect you to do the same.
Even if you do not have such a network in place, I encourage you to use National Mammography Day as your new reason to committing schedule regularly scheduling an annual mammogram for yourself and to encourage all women in your life over the age of 40 to do the same.
And don’t stop there. Make today your call to action. Create for yourself a breast health plan. A plan that starts with leading an active, non-smoking lifestyle. A lifestyle that encourages yourself and the women around you, to freely engage in open dialogue about women’s health regardless of your religion, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, parental status, familial obligation, or age.
Commit to asking the hard questions about breast health. In your life and the lives of women close to you. Don’t wait a lump to dictate your discussion with friends!
I beseech you to schedule your mammogram today. It could save your life. Never feel ashamed to put your health first. As wives, mother, daughters, sisters, and friends, we can only be the true stewards of our homes, vocations, commitments, and to others, when we put our self-care first.
Schedule a mammogram. No matter the cost. Your health will always be more important than any savings you can accumulate in the bank. And if you need help paying for a mammogram, finding a physician in your area to schedule a mammogram, funding possibilities for BRCA testing, and even transportation to a physician in your area without charge, contact the American Cancer Society at 1.800.227.2345 or visit their website here.
As my grandmother used to say, “The only three things worth going into debt for. Your home, your education, and your health.”
Schedule a mammogram for yourself today. Because there should be more to uplift the health of your breasts than hope and half a spool of wire!