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Opinion

Breast cancer awareness: Knowing what to search for, how to be more supportive towards loved ones

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February 3, 2012

Breast cancer is one of the leading causes of death in the world today. In fact, one in every three women is diagnosed with it and it is the most common cancer among women. The American Breast Cancer Society urges men and women to report any changes in their breasts to a physician.

Breast cancer usually starts in the breast tissue, in the form of a lump or mass called a tumor. Although breast cancer can produce no symptoms, there are many factors that influence the risk of getting breast cancer, including personal history of breast cancer, alcohol consumption, late age at first full term pregnancy, obesity, height and being over the age of 65. Women also have a high risk of getting breast cancer if one of their immediate family members had it and this risk increases if more than one relative had it.

Some women can have no symptoms at all and go have their annual check-up with their physician and find out they have breast cancer. Cancer survivor Vicky B. said she went to her doctor and he called her three days later and told her she tested positive for breast cancer.

“It was the worst news that I could ever imagine,” Vicky said when her doctor called and told her the news. Vicky said from there, it was a long and strenuous process going through each doctor visit, not knowing what’s going to happen. Just the whole process of waiting was very stressful. Vicky went through numerous diagnostics, and then finally decided to have both breasts removed. During the reconstructive breast process, both of her breasts got infected, causing her to have another reconstructive breast surgery. The whole process took over a year, but Vicky has been cancer free for two years.

Non-Hispanic white women have a higher chance of being diagnosed and dying from breast cancer compared to African American women. In fact, according to the American Breast Cancer society in Minnesota, there were 127 women diagnosed with breast cancer, 22 of which died, compared to 109 African American women, 28 of which resulted in death. In 2011 in the United States, there were around 39,000 women expected to die from breast cancer and there are still no ways to prevent getting it.

Although there currently is no cure for breast cancer, doctors say that some strategies may help in the prevention of it. These include: being on a healthy diet, avoiding fatty foods, being physically active, having regular check-ups, avoiding tobacco and reducing the amount of alcohol consumption. Women who breast-feed are also less likely to get breast cancer.

Breast cancer is one of the most devastating and deadliest diseases in the country today. There are numerous support groups such as the Susan G. Komen breast cancer walk that helps women learn about this disease, helps raise awareness of the epidemic and support others who have had it or are experiencing it. These groups’ goals are to save lives and make a difference in the world.

Jennylee Fahey is a student at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.