Be Proactive –– Your Life May Depend On It

Cancer is a topic rarely discussed during family dinners or on vacation, unless someone in the family or a dear friend is fighting the battle.  As we visit with others, cancer is rarely the topic of choice.  

But maybe it should be, as awareness and early detection are key to a better outcome.  Early detection is key to survival.  

Maybe as friends, daughters, sons, and family members we should all be more outspoken and diligent about promoting cancer screening tests, because earlier detection is an imperative.  

Stopping cancer when the cells first appear has proven to be the most cost effective and safest approach to killing the disease.  

Current statistics show that the overall rate of cancer deaths in the United States has fallen since its peak in 1991.  And one would hope lower numbers are appearing due to early detection and successes in treatment, but that is not the case.  In many fields of medicine, the lower numbers are attributed to wiser lifestyle choices that promote health, such as a reduction in the number of smokers, healthier diets, chemical awareness, and the on-going improvements within the field of diagnostic screenings.

In the 1970s, a person with a germ-cell tumor had a 3% chance of survival.  Today the survival rate for the same type of cancer ranges from 42% to 76%.  A marked improvement.     

Overall survival rates for patients continues to increase.

And there is good news relating to breast cancer.  

Several studies, recently conducted, measured a large numbers of participants and the findings substantiated the efficacy in the use of mammograms for reducing the number of breast cancer deaths in the United States.  Colorectal and cervical cancer screening methods have received similar reports, noting marked improvements in catching problems earlier. 

“Cancer research has been promising hope and delivering disappointments for a half-century, says Dr. Azra Raza, director of the MDS Center at Columbia University.  “Instead of letting cancer grow into its end-stage monstrosity, let us assemble our resources to pre-empt that battle and strike instead at cancer’s root: the first cells.”    

Diagnostic prevention is key. 

According to the National Cancer Institute, breast cancer is the second most common cancer in women after skin cancer.  Mammograms can detect breast cancer early, possibly before it has spread.

Detecting breast cancer while in its earliest stage, when the disease is still localized, shows an improved survival rate of up to 98.8%.

Approximately 12.8 percent of women will be diagnosed with female breast cancer at some point during their lifetime, according to figures based on 2014-2016 data.

In 2016, there were an estimated 3,477,866 women living with female breast cancer in the United States.

The number of estimated new cases in 2019 is 268,600.  

 So there is a sense of urgency to being proactive.  Don’t hesitate.  

And, if money is an issue, do some research.  

Under the Affordable Health Care Act, you may qualify for a free mammogram every two years, especially if over the age of 40.  

The Breast Cancer Foundation of the Ozarks (BCFO) also provides free screening mammograms to qualified applicants.  The BCFO is also a good source for breast health information, and a resource for community education.  

The Breast Cancer Foundation of the Ozarks is located at 620 West Republic Road, Suite 107, in Springfield, Mo.  The organization may be reached by phone, (417) 872-3838, or on the web, bcfo.org.  

Missouri Ozarks Community Health (MOCH) is a local source for breast cancer screenings and women’s healthcare.  The facility phone number is (417) 683-5739. 

On a day-to-day basis, it also pays to be knowledgeable about your own body. To do self exams and be aware of the signs of change to watch for.  Changes such as:

A lump or thickening that feels odd or unusual;

Change in size, shape,  appearance or tenderness of a breast;

Changes in the skin texture or appearance,  such as dimpling;

Change in the nipple;

Peeling, scaling, crusting or flaking of pigmented skin surrounding the nipple (areola) or breast skin;

Redness or pitting of the skin over your breast, like the skin of an orange.

Remember, several studies have concluded mammograms are a large factor in reducing breast cancer deaths in the United States.  

Be proactive.  Speak up and be your own best advocate for breast health.  Your life may depend on it.  

For more statistics and data, please visit the National Cancer Institute website, cancer.gov.