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October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October isn’t all about pumpkin spice lattes and trips to the cider mill. If you look around this month, you’ll surely notice an abundance of pink apparel, ribbons, and marketing supporting breast cancer awareness. You may even see that your favorite football team is wearing pink cleats or notice ribbon-shaped cookies being sold at your local bakery.

That’s because, since 1985, October has been deemed Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The goal was and still is to spread awareness and raise money for the countless charities and nonprofits that contribute to breast cancer research.

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The importance of screening

One of the key aspects of Breast Cancer Awareness Month is spreading the word on how crucial early detection is to successful treatment. National Breast Cancer Organization stated that all women should perform a self-examination once a month. This helps you become familiar enough with your breasts that you will notice if something seems off. Signs to keep an eye out for include:

  • Lumps or thickening on or near the breast and underarm area.
  • A change in your breast’s skin’s texture, such as enlarged pores or dimpling.
  • A change in your breast’s size or shape.
  • A change in the color or shape of your nipple or areola.
  • Nipple discharge or bleeding, not associated with breastfeeding.

If you do find a change in your breast, don’t panic. Just make an appointment with your doctor for an examination and a mammogram if he or she deems it necessary. A lump does not mean that you have cancer. In fact, 8 out of 10 lumps are not cancerous, according to the National Breast Cancer Organization, and instead are benign cysts.

While self-exams are certainly important, they should not take the place of regular mammograms. Per the American Cancer Society, women ages 40-45 can choose to get a mammogram each year, women ages 45-54 should receive one each year, and women ages 55 and older are recommended to see a doctor every two years for such an exam.

“Research on causes and treatments for breast cancer have improved.”

Advancements

Though there is no cure for breast cancer, causes and treatment science has improved. According to the American Cancer Society, researchers are exploring DNA variations like the BRCA genes that can contribute to a heightened breast cancer risk, as well as determining whether environmental factors play a role in cancer development. There are also many studies taking place on the effects of exercise, weight and diet when it comes to overall breast cancer risk in women.

Imaging tests are also improving, meaning that traditional mammograms may not be the only method of identifying cancer in the not-so-distant future. The American Cancer Society stated that scintimammography, also known as molecular breast imaging, may be beneficial. This test consists of injecting a liquid into a vein in the breast, which attaches to cancer cells, allowing the tumor to show up clearly on mammograms and help doctors determine whether a suspicious lump is, in fact, cancer.

Show your support

There has been a lot of criticism about companies that emblazon the distinctive pink ribbon on their products in an effort to boost sales during the month of October. However, this doesn’t mean that people have to steer clear of pink goods altogether this month. To ensure the proceeds from your baby pink spatula or T-shirt are helping the cause, just follow a few guidelines:

  • Check the packaging of products: While any business can sell items in a pink hue, if the company donates a portion of proceeds to cancer research, the packaging will say so.
  • Read the tag: See if the tags of products state what percentage of proceeds are donated to cancer research and which organization the donations are going to.
  • Conduct research online: If you want to delve deeper in the validity of breast cancer awareness tags and packaging, look into the reputation of the organization that receives product proceeds. The charity or business may have a cap on how much money it will donate when the month is over.
  • Buy pink clothes and items, and donate directly: If you’re unsure of where your money is going when buying pink products, consider donating directly to the charity organization you care about the most. You can take a route different than “breast cancer awareness” or “research” charities, and donate to an organization that helps provide screenings to women who can’t afford mammograms.
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