October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

By Brian Kobienia, MD, FACS on October 01, 2011


October is the month where flannel pajamas and sheets come out of storage.  So do the Pink Ribbons.  October is breast cancer awareness month.  In todays society we have become ultra aware of breast cancer - but more work is necessary.  It is thanks to local efforts from the Piper Breast Center at Abbott Northwestern, Jane Brattan Breast Center at Methodist Hospital, The Hope Chest at North Memorial and assorted others as well as national entities such as the Susan G Komen Foundation that has pushed breast cancer to the forefront of our consciousness.


The fact of the matter is that 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer.  Risk factors such as family history, genetic predisposition, early menarche (onset of periods), not breast feeding, previous  radiation therapy (for Hodgkins disease treatment), and having had a breast cancer before are things that make a woman more at risk.


Breast cancer is curable.  Found at an early stage breast cancer is a completely curable disease.  Early detection is the key.  Self exams and mammograms are important tools to detect breast cancer.  Advances in technology have made detection better - digital mammography is an example.  The use of MRI as a screening tool for women deemed to me high risk has helped find cancers that may not show up on routine mammography.  Most importantly, the realization by medical professionals that no one test or exam alone can be relied upon for every situation is key to prevention and detection.


The most effective maneuver to find breast cancer early may be peer pressure.  I'm still surprised at the number of women who do not do self checks and ignore the need for mammograms.  Take the lead in your network of friends and pick a date every month (maybe its when the electric bill arrives) to do a self exam.


So this month and every month bug your best friend to check the girls and get her yearly mammogram -- you might just give her the best gift ever - you might just save her life.

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