By Mike Wilcox, Publisher
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and in this week’s LaFayette Sun you will find a two-page spread sponsored by area businesses outlining facts and figures about a cancer that kills more than 40,000 women each year.
Fortunately, I’ve been around very few people who have had a form of cancer and even less whom have fought the dreaded cancer of the breast. It hit home, however a few months ago, when one of our graphic artists, and an employee here for eight years, messaged me and said she might need some time off.
She had no warning, no pain, nothing out of the ordinary. She went to the doctor for a check-up, and there it was- stage two breast cancer. Her medical crew immediately demanded treatment. She has been taking chemotherapy treatments once a week for the last few months and will until the end of the year, at which point every day radiation will start.
That time off she was asking for failed to materialize. She hasn’t missed a day. She says she’s never felt better, and we all marvel at her positive attitude. Because she continues to work each and every day, has busy weekends, and has never got caught up in self pity, she deserves a silver star in my book. She’s certainly an inspiration to me and my co-workers.
That’s not, however, the case for others that have breast cancer. It can be a cruel disease that carries many psychological affects, and can kill you if the disease isn’t found early enough. Most breast cancers are found in women between the age of 50 and 74. Each year 200,000 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with breast cancer, with about 20% of cases being fatal.
Symptoms can be numerous, or like in the case of our graphic artist, nothing at all. Symptoms can include a change or shape in the breast, pain in any area of the breast, nipple discharge, and a new lump in the breast or underarm.
Believe it or not, many women who get breast cancer have no known risk factors and no history of the disease in their families. However, it is also true, that the disease is somewhat hereditary. If a mother, daughter, grandmother has had breast cancer, it doubles the risk to you. It has been established one out of eight women will get breast cancer in their lifetime. It is the second most common form of cancer in females- skin cancer being the first.
Certain lifestyle choices can make you, or not make you, susceptible to breast cancer. For instance, women who have not conceived children, or gave birth to a child after age 30, are more likely to have breast cancer. Women who use birth control pills have a slightly greater risk, than those who don’t.
Alcohol is known to increase the chances you will get breast cancer. The more alcohol you drink, the more likely you are to get breast cancer. The same can be said for those who are overweight, particularly in the stomach area. Smoking was thought not to by symptomatic of breast cancer, but studies lately have shown long term smokers to have a greater risk than those who don’t smoke.
On the flip side, physical activity reduces the risk of breast cancer. By simply walking 1.2 to 2 hours a week, your risk is reduced by 20 percent. Walk more and the risk goes down further. Proper diet and vitamin studies have proven to be inconclusive, but exercise, now there’s the ticket. The more physical activity you take on, the greater the reduction in risk.
No matter how healthy we think we are, if we are female and approaching the age of 50, it is time to get a screening mammogram every couple of years. Early detection of breast cancer usually means you can live a long and prosperous life.
My co-worker has shown by example, breast cancer is a disease and nothing more. Her positive attitude and inspiration has allowed her to conquer the mental challenges the disease and its treatment throws at her. It has also made others realize, no matter what life piles on you, through a strong mental attitude you will prevail.
I for one, appreciate the inspiration you have given me, Sherry.