No one says they are fun. As anyone who has stood in a cold room and had their naked breast manipulated and squished between an even colder press can tell you, mammograms can be down right uncomfortable. But not enduring those brief moments of discomfort can bring about even longer lasting, and often preventable pain and suffering. According to the Centers for Disease Control, breast cancer is the second most common cancer amongst women in the United States with 211,731women being diagnosed and close to 41,000 women dying from the cancer in 2009 alone. This translates into roughly one in eight American women receiving a breast cancer diagnosis at some point in their lives. (Take a look around the room and see exactly what one in eight looks like). Family history is a strong indicator of being more susceptible to being diagnosed with breast cancer but 85% of breast cancer diagnoses occur in women without a family history of the disease. But the statistics are not all grim. The earlier cancer is detected the greater the survival rates. There are approximately 2.6 million breast cancer survivors in the United States alone. The easiest way to detect early breast cancer is through a mammogram. And thanks to increased breast cancer awareness campaigns and increased access to affordable health care, just over 61% of American women have had a mammogram. We still have a long way to go but each procedure is a step, or squish, in the right direction.
October may be Breast Cancer Awareness Month but that doesn't mean you have to wait another eight months to get checked out. Do it now. I've had my exam for the year and I will continue to do self exams every month until my next mammogram. I challenge all of my woman friends to do the same. For my male friends, encourage the women in your life to do it as well.