Currently, more than 2.9 million breast cancer survivors are living the United States, including women still being treated and those who have completed treatment, according to statistics from the American Cancer Society.
As part of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the Panhellenic Association (PHA) has a table in Memorial Union this week to help spread awareness and to raise funds for Susan G. Komen for the Cure, an organization that has been dedicated to spreading awareness and raising funds for breast cancer research since 1982. By press time on Wednesday, PHA had collected about $30 in loose change. Their target goal is $50.
“We have fact sheets for both women and men in regards to breast cancer because this cancer can occur in anybody, not just women,” said Kelcie Push, senior psychology major and director of community service and philanthropy for PHA.
Push also said the group made pink ribbons that students can pick up for free and wear to show support for breast cancer awareness.
“Men (with) breast cancer is not frequent, but it can still happen,” Push said, “and all men should be educated on the prevention of breast cancer and the warning signs as well.”
Although men are, indeed, susceptible to the disease, Mary McDaniel, assistant director of Health Services, said breast cancer is far less common in men than it is in women. Incidents of male breast cancer account for about 1 percent of total breast cancer cases, according to the Komen group’s website.
“The average age (for men) is 68, so typical college-aged men have little risk,” McDaniel said. “Student Health more often talks to young men about testicular cancer, which does hit young men.”
But breast cancer is the most commonly occurring cancer in American women – except for skin cancers – and 1 in 8 women, or 12 percent of the total female population, will develop invasive breast cancer in their lifetime, according ACS.
“Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women, exceeded only by lung cancer,” the ACS website states. “The chance that breast cancer will be responsible for a woman’s death is about 1 in 36 (about 3%).”
The website also states that breast cancer related deaths have been declining since 1990, which is “believed to be the result of earlier detection through screening and increased awareness, as well as improved treatment.”
McDaniel said young women should be aware of what’s normal for their breasts and become accustomed to that knowledge so they can spot an abnormality.
“Start maybe after a clinical breast exam so you know that what your healthcare provider felt was normal,” McDaniel said. “Then, by doing self-exams on a regular basis, women will notice changes when they first occur and seek care.”
McDaniel said breast self-exams (BSE) can be done regularly at home, and clinical breast exams (CBE) are usually done as part of a woman’s annual gynecology exam.
“I’d rather people didn’t try to figure out on their own which lumps might be dangerous and which ones might not be,” McDaniel said. “Rather, people should be very comfortable with their breast tissue, know what’s normal for them, and have any new lumps or changes checked out by their healthcare provider.”
Mammography is another way to detect signs of breast abnormalities, and yearly mammograms are recommended starting at age 40 and continuing for as long as a woman is in good health, according to the ACS.
McDaniel said some risk factors, such as genetics, cannot be helped, but there are some risk reduction strategies, including maintaining a normal weight, exercising regularly, avoiding smoking and moderate alcohol use.
“There are more, such as bearing children before age 30, but you don’t typically think of college students planning to have a baby to reduce cancer risk,” McDaniel said.