As Breast Cancer Awareness Month draws to a close, many questions remain concerning this devastating disease. Throughout the month, hundreds of thousands of people have contributed to the prevention of this disease by donating money, time and resources. Big chain stores have sold pink shirts, ribbons and socks; professional athletes have worn pink gloves and shoes; and marathons and races have sprung up around the world to raise awareness and money to support the prevention of this cancer. At the Fisher & Associates P.C. law firm, we believe the most important step is education and we understand that we must all do our part to promote awareness.
According to the National Breast Cancer Association, one out of eight women will have breast cancer in their life, making it the most commonly diagnosed cancer among the female population. Each year, it is estimated that more than 220,000 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer, and more than 40,000 will die as a result of the disease. Men are not exempt either. An estimated 2,150 men will be diagnosed, and 410 will die as a result. These facts and statistics demonstrate the far reaching impact of this disease. No one is immune—this disease has devastating effects on families of every ethnicity and socioeconomic background. Many of the attorneys and staff at Fisher & Associates P.C. have had loved ones who have been diagnosed with breast cancer and understand first hand how terrible this disease is.
Causes and Signs
According to studies, cancer grows when a cell’s DNA is damaged, but why or how that DNA becomes damaged is still unknown. Potential factors include genetic predisposition or environmental factors or, most likely, some combination of the two. Only five to ten percent of breast cancer cases occur in women with a clearly defined genetic predisposition for the disease. The remainder of cases are considered “sporadic,” in that there is no direct family history of the disease. Most women who have breast cancer will never be able to pinpoint the exact cause.
However, it is known that a lack of physical activity, poor diet, alcohol consumption, chest radiation and hormone replacement therapy are factors that can increase the risk of breast cancer. It is also understood that this cancer is not caused by underwire bras, implants, deodorants, antiperspirants, mammograms, caffeine, use of plastic utensils, microwaves or cell phones, as previous myths have suggested.
Early warning signs of breast cancer may involve the discovery of a new lump, or changes in the breast tissue or skin, including a change in the size, shape or contour of the breast. Other symptoms may include deviations in the feel or appearance of the skin on the breast or nipple, and blood-stained or clear fluid discharge from the nipple. Women should perform a self-breast exam each month and discuss any changes or abnormalities with a doctor or physician. It is also advised that women have their breasts examined by a health provider at least once every three years after the age of 20, and annual mammograms after the age of 40 or 50.
Getting Help and Support
In recent years, the importance of raising awareness and prevention of this disease has increased substantially. Several non-profit organizations specifically assist low-income communities in receiving screenings and treatments at affordable prices through various grants.
One well-known organization is the Susan G. Komen association, which has provided resources to women in the prevention stages, disease treatment and to survivors. Another organization that offers assistance to breast cancer patients is Avon, a foundation that organizes nationwide races to promote awareness and raise money for those with the disease.
Living with such an illness is a tough and devastating time in one’s life. As a whole, our society is taking great strides to provide men and women with the information and resources they need for early prevention. However, the enormity of the task is still ahead, and it is up to us to keep fighting for a cure and to continue sharing information about breast cancer with our friends, family, neighbors and, in some cases, the complete strangers around us. In this way, we hope to ensure that everyone has a chance to get the most out of life.