Research, races and ribbons mark the fight against breast cancer

McClatchy-Tribune Information ServicesOctober 2, 2011 

Every woman is at risk for breast cancer.

The disease doesn’t discriminate between young and old, wealthy and poor, educated and uneducated. And so far, it can’t be prevented or cured.

One out of seven women in the United States will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. This year alone, about 213,000 new cases of female breast cancer will be diagnosed, according to the American Cancer Society, and 41,000 women will die from the disease.

But breast cancer is more than reams of statistics -- for many women, it is just a fact of life. The women who battle breast cancer are mothers, daughters, aunts, co-workers, neighbors and friends. They continue to do the things they did before cancer became part of their lives --go to work, go to school, raise families, take vacations. And most of them -- the lucky ones -- survive.

Women aren’t alone in the struggle against breast cancer. Men are affected as well; this year, about 450 men will die from the disease. An estimated 1,700 men will be diagnosed in 2006.

Every October, cancer organizations recognize National Breast Cancer Awareness Month -- an effort to get the word out about screening, risk factors and research. The campaign began small, as a weeklong event in October 1985. Today, it has grown into a monthlong chance to remember those who died from the disease and honor those who have survived. And it is an opportunity to educate about screening and early diagnosis, and to raise money for the search for a cure.

To mark the month, test your knowledge with our cancer quiz, learn how you can contribute to finding a cure and find out how to protect yourself with regular self-exams.

Breast cancer quiz

1. True or false: A lump in your breast is definitely cancer.

2. Many celebrities have gone public with their fights against breast cancer. Which of these celebrities survived battles with the disease?

A. Sandra Day O’Connor

B. Melissa Etheridge

C. Nancy Reagan

D. Gloria Steinem

E. All of the above

3. What percentage of breast cancer cases occur in women with no identifiable risk factors?

A. Less than 10 percent

B. 10 percent to 40 percent

C. 40 percent to 70 percent

D. More than 70 percent

4. What is the average age of breast cancer diagnosis?

A. 32

B. 42

C. 52

D. 62

5. Which of the following is a risk factor for breast cancer?

A. Personal or family history of breast cancer.

B. No children, or first child after the age of 30.

C. Prior treatment with radiation therapy for Hodgkin’s disease.

D. All of the above.

6. The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation sponsors Race for the Cure, the largest series of 5K races in the world. This year, races will be held in more than 100 U.S. cities and two foreign countries. How many people are expected to participate?

7. When is the best time of the month for a premenopausal woman to check her breasts for lumps?

8. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death for all women. What is the leading cause of cancer death?

A. Ovarian cancer

B. Skin cancer

C. Lung cancer

D. Colon cancer

E. Leukemia

9. How often should a woman have a clinical breast exam conducted by a doctor or other health-care provider?

10. True or false: Many biopsies turn out not to be cancer, so they are unnecessary.

ANSWERS

1. False. Lumpy breasts are actually quite common, especially in younger women. About 80 percent of breast lumps are noncancerous, or benign.

2. E. All of these women battled breast cancer. O’Connor returned to the bench just five days after her mastectomy. Other celebrities who have fought the disease include singers Kylie Minogue and Sheryl Crow.

3. D. More than 70 percent.

4. D. The average age is 62.

5. D. All of the above.

6. More than 1 million people are expected to participate in Race for the Cure in 2006. For information, visit www.raceforthecure.org.

7. The best time for a premenopausal woman to conduct a self-exam is a week after her menstrual period.

8. C. Lung cancer.

9. A woman should have her breasts examined by her doctor at least once every three years after age 20, and once a year after 40.

10. False. A biopsy is the only way to determine for certain that a breast abnormality is not cancer. Biopsies are generally minor, outpatient procedures, and leave a small scar.

Self-exams

Experts recommend that women perform monthly breast self-exams. Becoming familiar with the way breasts normally look and feel can help women and their doctors spot changes. Here are the basics:

Visual exam. Stand in front of a mirror and:

1. With arms at sides, look for changes in breast size, shape, skin color or texture. Check nipple for discharge, scaly skin or dimpling of skin near nipple (as if something is pulling the skin into the breast).

2. Repeat with your arms above your head.

3. With hands on hips, press shoulders forward slightly; both breasts should react the same way to the movement.

Feel for lumps. With a pillow under your shoulder and an arm behind your head, use three fingers to feel whole breast and armpit.

Repeat on other side. Use the same method each month.

Three methods. Use whichever method is comfortable for you, but be consistent.

Circle, left: Move fingers slowly in increasingly smaller circles.

Parallel, middle: Slowly move fingers down then up, from underarm to mid-chest.

Wedge, right: Move fingers toward nipple, then back to edge.

Do something

Want to make a difference in the fight to cure breast cancer? Here’s how to start:

n Run a race. The Komen Foundation sponsors Race for the Cure, the largest series of 5K races in the world. Race for the Cure is held in more than 100 U.S. cities, so there’s bound to be one near you. Visit www.raceforthecure.org to search for a race by state or date.

n Wear a ribbon. A pink ribbon has come to symbolize support for breast cancer causes. Browse Web sites like www.pinkribbonshop.com and www.pinkribbonjewelry.com for pink ribbon merchandise in every shape and size -- on jewelry, ornaments, tote bags, teddy bears, coffee mugs and more.

n Go shopping. Dozens of companies offer products and promotions to benefit breast cancer programs. Visit www.bcrfcure.org/part_friends.html to see a list of some companies that participate.

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