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Overview of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, early detection

Jose Gonzalez-Campelo/The Cougar

October recognizes Breast Cancer Awareness month, a time when organizations raise public acknowledgment about the disease and many come forth to share their survivorship stories. 

Breast cancer is a disease affecting the breast cells in the body in which they grow “out of control.” Breast cancer can be found primarily in women, but men can also be diagnosed. 

Meghana Trivedi, director of clinical and translational research, gives an overview of the signs of breast cancer, how it affects an individual and why early detection can save many lives. 

Signs and symptoms of breast cancer are different in different people,” Trivedi said. “They include new lump in the breast or underarm, pain, thickening or swelling in an area of the breast, irritation or dimpling of the breast skin, red or flaky area of the breast or nipple, bloody or non-bloody discharge from the nipple or any change in the size or shape of the breast.”

Because these symptoms can be related to other conditions, Trivedi states that it is best practice to schedule an appointment with a doctor in case of the symptoms. It is important to note that many people do not show any signs or symptoms before being diagnosed, so early breast cancer screening is vital for women after 40 years old. 

Affecting lives 

As of 2022, there are more than 3.8 million in the U.S. who have a history of breast cancer including women who have been treated and completed treatment. Trivedi notes the expected number of newly diagnosed invasive species in 2022 is 287,850 for women and nearly 2,710 for men.

Breast cancer diagnosis affects patients physically, mentally and financially,” Trivedi said. “Most will require surgery that can affect the body image. Many patients will undergo radiation and chemotherapy that have side effects and long-term complications.”

During this month, there are many campaigns and events set up to raise public awareness about breast cancer. Because early detection saves lives, there’s a focus on informing everyone about the screening mammograms and making these programs available, Trivedi said.

Wearing pink (ribbons) is a way to honor lost ones and survivors and to support the fight in ending breast cancer. Various seminars and sponsored events take place to support those undergoing treatments. 

Race for the Cure 

This past Saturday, the Susan G. Komen organization held its 2022 Race For The Cure event in downtown Houston celebrating and remembering loved ones who’ve lost their fight with the slogan “more than pink.”

Survivors of various backgrounds briefly shared their stories and gave words of encouragement to the crowd of supporters. 

Christine Turcotte has a longstanding involvement with the Komen foundation and has been a board member of the Komen Leadership Council for four years.

“I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017 and underwent a mastectomy, another seven reconstructive surgeries and began hormone therapy,” Turcotte said. “This year is my five-year anniversary and I’m just thrilled to be out here with friends and family celebrating that milestone.”

Trivedi states the importance of reminding loved ones to treat their bodies well by eating healthy, sleeping well, exercising and lessening stress and alcohol intake reduces risks of not only breast cancer but other types of cancers also. 

Breast cancer research can aid in discovering live saving therapies, improving treatments and increasing the education of the public about prevention and early diagnosing. 

One message that needs to be loud and clear for breast cancer awareness is ‘mammograms save lives’,” Trivedi said.  “The screening detects problems early when they are easier to treat. Share survivor stories of women who you know have fought breast cancer to encourage others about doing things to prevent and early detect breast cancer.”

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