By Theresa K. Jackson, Ph.D., Public Health ScientistSeptember 30, 2011
October brings with it many great things--the start of autumn, beautiful foliage, football games, candy corn, pumpkin lattes at Starbucks … and a lot of pink.
In October, we see pink ribbons, pink candies, pink T-shirts, pink bracelets and pink sneakers. In recent years, we have even seen hot pink accents on our favorite NFL players.
So why does the first full month of autumn take on a rosy hue across America? Unfortunately for some, it is not a second coming of Valentine's Day (though who wouldn't love some extra flowers and chocolate?). Rather, all of the pink we see from now through Halloween is to raise awareness for women's health because October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide. About 1 in 8 women in the United States (12 percent) will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of their lifetime. In fact, this year in the United States alone, more than 230,000 women--or nearly 600 women per day--will be diagnosed.
Though we may not see splashes of hot pink on our Soldiers' Army Combat Uniforms or Battle Dress Uniforms this month, we can all support the national campaign against breast cancer.
Therefore, the U.S. Army Public Health Command encourages all of our female Soldiers and Army wives, sisters, mothers, and daughters to Think P.I.N.K. this October:
• P -- PARTICIPATE IN SCREENING
The chances of survival are better if any cancer is detected early and before it spreads to other parts of the body. In fact, when breast cancer is found early and confined to the breast, the five-year survival rate is 98 percent. To promote early detection, the American Cancer Society recommends that women in their 20s and 30s receive a clinical breast exam every three years and that women age 40 and older receive a yearly CBE as well as a yearly mammogram.
•I -- INVEST IN PREVENTION
Women often struggle with balancing family, work and taking care of themselves. Being sure to eat right, get enough sleep, avoid alcohol use and exercise. These actions not only help you feel better but may also reduce your risk of cancer. In one study from the Women's Health Initiative, as little as 1¼ to 2½ hours per week of brisk walking reduced a woman's risk of developing breast cancer by 18 percent.
• N -- NOTE YOUR RISKS
All women are at risk for breast cancer. The two most important risk factors for breast cancer are being female and getting older. Most breast cancers and associated breast cancer deaths occur in women ages 50 and older. Risk also increases if you have a first-degree relative (mother, daughter or sister) who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Knowing your risks, communicating them with your healthcare provider and following the appropriate screening recommendations is key to early detection.
•K -- KNOW YOUR BODY
No matter your age, you should become familiar with how your breasts look and feel. If you notice any changes such as a lump, swelling, dimpling, pain or redness, see your healthcare provider right away. Finding a breast change does not necessarily mean that you have cancer; your provider will be able to offer you additional information and next steps.
If you or your family member would like additional information on Women's Health Month and Breast Cancer Awareness, please visit:
American Cancer Society, http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/BreastCancer/index
National Cancer Institute, http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/breast
National Women's Health Resource Center, http://www.healthywomen.org/
Susan G. Komen for the Cure, http://ww5.komen.org/
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Office on Women's Health, http://www.womenshealth.gov/