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Breast Cancer Awareness Month

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Breast Cancer Awareness Month (1st to 31st October 2014) is important. It’s essential. It’s the one time in the year when women – and men, because although breast cancer affects around 55,000 women each year, about 350 men are diagnosed too – can think about, learn about, and do something about one of the most common forms of cancer there is.

Breast cancer is not a pleasant thing to contemplate, but until women everywhere understand more about how to spot the signs and symptoms, and what to do about them, it will continue to devastate lives. That’s why Breast Cancer Awareness Month is so vital in the fight against this disease.

During October it is hoped that more women will become ‘breast aware’ than ever before. This means that they need to get to know their own breasts, so that any changes are noticed immediately. It means reminding women that a routine of checking and re-checking their breasts should become a daily occurrence. And it also means that women should become more confident in being able to contact their GP should they spot a potential problem. There is no need to be worried that you might be wrong about feeling a lump or seeing a strange discharge, or even simply feeling that something has changed in your body. Be glad if you’re wrong. But be gladder still if you’re right and you’ve gone to see someone who can help you.

Breast cancer is a treatable disease, and the survival rates are high, but it needs to be caught early for the best chance. Five out of every six women diagnosed with breast cancer will survive for at least five years. For those surviving for more than 10 years after diagnosis, the figure is four. These are encouraging results, and just go to show how modern medicine and research are making it possible to beat breast cancer and keep living the life you’ve always lived.

So let’s look at the facts. It is estimated that, at current rates, around one in every eight women will develop breast cancer at some point in their lives. It is most likely in those aged up to 69 (a one in 13 chance), but any age is vulnerable to the risk (for example, those aged up to 49 have a 1 in 50 chance, and those aged up to 29 have a risk of one in 2,000).

Although these are pretty good odds, breast cancer campaign and awareness groups won’t be satisfied until there is a zero chance of developing the disease. And, whatever the odds, there is still the chance that it could happen to you, or to someone you know. If there is a history of breast cancer in your family, if you are over 50, and if you are female, the stakes are suddenly raised, and this is why the free NHS screening sessions for those between the ages of 50 and 70 are so important. Arranged every three years, this is a chance to spot breast cancer before it becomes widespread and untreatable, so when offered a mammogram, go for it. It could save your life. To make this screening process even better, in 2016 it will be extended for women between the ages of 47 and 73, giving the experts even more chances to catch a potential killer.

During Breast Cancer Awareness Month there will be sponsored runs and bike rides, money raising activities such as fashion shows and cake sales, and a chance to ask the experts anything you need to know about breast cancer.

What Breast Cancer Awareness Month aims to do is make talking about, checking for, and thinking about breast cancer something that is natural and normal. Lives will be saved this way.

www.breastcancercare.org.uk

www.breakthrough.org.uk

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