National Breast Cancer awareness month
October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM). Since the program began in 1985, mammography rates have more than doubled for women age 50 and older and breast cancer deaths have declined. National Breast Cancer Awareness Month educates women about the importance of early detection. More and more women are getting mammograms to detect breast cancer in its earliest stages. As a result, breast cancer deaths are on the decline. All women should be encouraged to get mammograms on a regular basis.
The National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM) organization is a partnership of national public service organizations, professional medical associations, and government agencies working together to promote breast cancer awareness, share information on the disease, and provide greater access to screening services.
This year NBCAM celebrates its 25th anniversary. Since its inception a quarter century ago, NBCAM has been at the forefront of promoting awareness of breast cancer issues and has evolved along with the national dialogue on breast cancer. Today, NBCAM recognizes that although many great strides have been made in breast cancer awareness and treatment, there remains much to be accomplished. NBCAM is dedicated to educating and empowering women to take charge of their own breast health by practicing regular self-breast exams to identify any changes, scheduling regular visits and annual mammograms with their healthcare provider, adhering to prescribed treatment, and knowing the facts about recurrence.
While October is recognized as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the www.NBCAM.org web site is a year-round resource for breast cancer patients, survivors, caregivers, and the general public. Everyone is encouraged to visit the site in October and regularly throughout the year.
The National Breast Cancer Awareness Month program is dedicated to increasing public knowledge about the importance of early detection of breast cancer. Fifteen national public service organizations, professional associations, and government agencies comprise the Board of Sponsors, who work together to ensure that the NBCAM message is heard by thousands of women and their families.
Surprisingly, some women never take advantage of early detection methods. Some women do not get screening mammograms and clinical breast exams at regular intervals. Women age 65 and older are less likely to get mammograms than younger women, even though breast cancer risk increases with age. Hispanic women have fewer mammograms than Caucasian women and African American women. Women below poverty level are less likely than women at higher incomes to have had a mammogram within the past two years. Mammography use has increased for all groups except American Indians and Alaska Natives.
It is estimated that if all women age 40 and older took advantage of early detection methods, which includes mammography plus clinical breast exam, breast cancer death rates would drop much further, up to 30 percent. Mammography screening must be done annually, as one time only is not enough.
One of the earliest signs of breast cancer can be an abnormality that shows up on a mammogram before it may be felt. The most common signs of breast cancer are a lump in the breast; abnormal thickening of the breast; or a change in the shape or color of the breast. Finding a lump or change in the breast does not necessarily mean that cancer is present. The NBCAM website has information on what signs women should continually look for in early detection of breast cancer.
For more information about NBCAM, please visit www.nbcam.org. For additional information, call one of the following toll-free numbers: American Cancer Society,
(800) 227-2345, National Cancer Institute (NCI), (800) 4-CANCER, Y-ME National Breast Cancer Organization, (800) 221-2141.