Early detection critical in fight against cancer

It’s October, a time when the color pink is prevalent in our communities, making us aware it’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

And the statistics still hold true, as one in eight women will develop invasive breast cancer in her lifetime, according to medical experts. But did you know that the most significant risk factors for breast cancer are gender — being a woman — and growing older.

Yes, breast cancer remains a killer of women, but, as always, early detection and treatment remain the best defense in fighting the disease.

When detected early, breast cancer has a five-year survival rate exceeding 90 percent. However, African-American women are most likely to be diagnosed at a late stage, resulting in a 60 percent higher rate of death for black women — with only a 77 percent 5-year survival rate, according to Center for Disease Control.

Age is a woman’s single most important risk factor for developing breast cancer. Yet, nearly 13 million American women age 40 or older have never had a mammogram.

Mammograms are safe and the most effective screening tool used to find breast cancer, finding cancers at the earlier stages, according to Susan G. Komen For the Cure.

Approximately 266,120 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year — accounting for one in every three diagnoses of cancer in women — and 40,920 of those women will die, according to statistics from Breastcancer.org.

Breast cancer death rates in this country continue to fall because determined and dedicated doctors, organizers and survivors are getting the word out: Early detection saves lives.

The American Cancer Society recommends women older than 20 years of age perform breast self-examinations every month; women between 20-39 have a clinical breast exam every three years; and women older than 40 have a clinical breast exam and mammogram every year.

We encourage women in the community — especially older women and women of color — to examine their breasts, schedule a clinical breast examine and a mammogram.

Medicare, Medicaid and most insurance companies cover mammograms, and the Affordable Care Act requires all new insurance plans to cover yearly mammograms — with no co-payment — for those women aged 40 and older.

Several area organizations offer help to those who are seeking assistance in getting breast or cervical cancer screening. Try contacting the Columbiana County (330-424-0272) or Mahoning County (330-270-2855) boards of health. The Salem City Health District can be contacted at 330-332-1618. The American Cancer Society (1-800-227-2345) exists to assist. Or just ask your family doctor for information. Make an appointment. It could save your life.