ABOVE PHOTO: In 2009, Senator Hughes was honored to receive the Pink Ribbon Award from the PA Breast Cancer Coalition. The award is given to individuals who demonstrate outstanding leadership in breast cancer research, education, treatment and advocacy. Pictured with Senator Hughes are Pat Halpin-Murphy, Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, United States Congresswoman.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This October, I am taking the time to focus on prevention and early detection.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cancer claims the lives of more than a quarter of a million women in America every year. Breast cancer is the most common cause of cancer and the second most common cause of cancer deaths in American women.
I am urging all women to make sure you are keeping informed on breast cancer risks factors, doing monthly breast self exams (BSE), seeing your provider for a clinical breast examination (CBE) at least once a year and getting regular mammograms.
These measures go a long way towards preventing breast cancer and detecting breast cancer early for positive outcomes. The PA Department of Health offers the HealthyWoman Program (HWP), a FREE breast and cervical cancer early detection program, funded by the Department of Health and through a grant the Department receives from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Call 1-800-215-7494 for more information and to see if you are eligible for the program.
The Facts on Breast Cancer according to the PA Breast Cancer Coalition:
- 32 women in Pennsylvania will be diagnosed with breast cancer today.
- Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in Pennsylvania in women between the ages of 25 and 54.
- Approximately 12,000 women in Pennsylvania are diagnosed each year with breast cancer.
- Approximately 2,000 women in Pennsylvania die each year from breast cancer.
- There are approximately 103,000 women in Pennsylvania living with breast cancer.
These are very dire statistics that we must see end. I have been and will continue working diligently with the PA Breast Cancer Coalition to ensure that this issue remains relevant in the legislature and to ensure that all individuals living with breast cancer will have access to the life-saving treatment they desperately need.
Thanks to the passage of federal health care reform, women with breast-cancer will no longer be denied health insurance because they have a preexisting condition. This means that millions more women will have access to the care that they need. This will also mean that more women will be able to get the screenings they need to detect breast cancer earlier.
We must continue to advance cancer research to find a cure for this devastating illness. Until there is a cure, we must do all that we can to help individuals living with breast cancer live full, productive lives.
What is Breast Cancer?
When breast cells become abnormal and grow, divide, and create new cells that the body does not need and that do not function normally, these extra cells form a tumor. Malignant tumors are cancer. Breast cancer often starts out too small to be felt. As it grows, it can spread throughout the breast or to other parts of the body. This causes serious health problems and can cause death.
According to the National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the most common risk factors for breast cancer are:
- Personal History
- Family History
- The Breast Cancer Genes
More details on these risk factors can be found here. ww5.komen.org/BreastCancer/LowerYourRisk.html
Black Women and Breast Cancer
Black women are less likely than white women to get breast cancer, yet have a higher breast cancer death rate. Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among Black women and in 2010, the CDC reported that breast cancer was the leading cause of cancer death for Black women aged 45–64 years. The Black Women’s Health Imperative offers breast cancer information and resources for women of color. Visit www.blackwomenshealth.org/issues-and-resources/black-women-and-breast-cancer/.
Detecting breast cancer early could mean the difference between life and death. Early detection means receiving life-saving treatment earlier. Mammograms are the best way to find breast cancer early, before it can be felt, and when it is easier to treat.
The CDC provides these warning signs of breast cancer:
- New lump in the breast or underarm (armpit).
- Thickening or swelling of part of the breast.
- Irritation or dimpling of breast skin.
- Redness or flaky skin in the nipple area or the breast.
- Pulling in of the nipple or pain in the nipple area.
- Nipple discharge other than breast milk, including blood.
- Any change in the size or the shape of the breast.
- Pain in any area of the breast.
- Keep in mind that some of these warning signs can happen with other conditions that are not cancer.