October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and it’s the month where you’re inundated with pink products and pink ribbons. As much as I’m a supporter of Breast Cancer research, I don’t adhere to the pink ribbon consumerism behind Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Although a percentage of the sales surrounding these products may go to Breast Cancer research, I’d rather donate my money directly to organizations that fund research than to purchase pink products.

Although pink is usually associated with women, anyone with breast tissue can get breast cancer. One of the few organizations dedicated to promoting awareness about men with breast cancer is the John W. Nick Foundation. This organization promotes awareness with a pink and blue ribbon. I would hope more companies would use pink and blue ribbons during this month, but it’s a rarity that you see them.

Breast cancer doesn’t discriminate. Young, old, woman or man. Healthy or unhealthy. Rich or poor. What these people have in common are mutations in the DNA of their breast cells. These mutations can be genetic, or from exposure to certain things throughout your lifetime. Breast cancer occurs when normal breast cells grow and reproduce out of control, turning into cancerous cells. These abnormal cells grow so much that they fill the ducts or the lobules of the breast. The lobules are glands that produce breast milk, and the ducts are the passageways that carry the milk from the lobules to the nipple.

For the majority of people, lifestyle changes, a healthy diet, exercise, and weight reduction can help reduce the chance of developing breast cancer. To date, the most important strategy in improving survival is still breast cancer screening and early detection. Mammography and breast examinations are the tools used for screening for breast cancer, and should be performed yearly by women over 40. According to Medicinenet, approximately 85%-90% of all breast cancers are detectable by mammography. Early detection by mammography has reduced the mortality rate from breast cancer by 20%-30% in women over 50 years of age. Mammograms are not recommended for women under the age of 40 because breast tissue tends to be more dense in young women, making mammograms less effective as a screening tool. The American Cancer Society recommends that all women 20 years of age or older should perform monthly breast self-examinations (BSE) . The best time to perform BSE is the day after your monthly period ends. Below is a diagram on how to perform a BSE:

One of my favorite websites, Check Your Boobies, has a reminder system that you can use and it will send you BSE reminders. The American Cancer Society says that 1 in 7 women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. Personally, I know 8 women that have survived it because of early detection. Know your breasts and make sure to head to the doctor immediately if you notice any changes.

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