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Community Health: Education, Prevention & Inspiration

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

It's that time of the year again were anywhere you look you see pink: pink ribbons, pink balloons, pink clothing, buildings with pink lights, professional athletes wearing pink gear, and even pink animals! Ok, maybe it was not a live animal, but I did come across a freshly-painted pink horse outside a chain restaurant over the weekend. It is all done to bring attention to the fact that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. While the intention is respectable, my question to you is, Is it enough to don pink one month of the year to raise awareness of breast cancer?

Breast cancer awareness should go beyond wearing pink and beyond the 31 days of the tenth month. Breast cancer awareness should be about learning more regarding breast cancer; about getting to know your breasts so you can detect a change if it were to occur; about scheduling a mammogram and keeping the appointment; about encouraging women you love to do the same; about hearing a breast cancer survivor's story and being inspired by it; and about learning what can increase your chances for breast cancer and taking action to reduce this risk. Do you know what factors can put you at risk for breast cancer? Most people will answer "family history", and while this is correct, less than 15% of women diagnosed with breast cancer have a first-degree female relative- that is her mother, sister or daughter- with breast cancer. Most women with breast cancer do not have a family history of the disease. Other risk factors have to do with your reproductive history and even lifestyle habits. Then there are two common risk factors that might be beyond your control, age and whether you are a woman. Men can also get breast cancer, but the number of cases is less than 3% compared to female cases.

As you can see, breast cancer awareness is about getting facts. So, in addition to wearing pink this month, I invite you to take the time to learn more about breast cancer, what can put you at risk, and what screenings exist to help detect it early. After all, the best protection is early detection.

University of Illinois Extension Cook County Community Health Team Breast Cancer Online Course - English

Spanish version