Making strides toward breast cancer awareness

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and some great strides are being made against the disease through local events. Making Strides is a walk on Oct. 6 to raise money and awareness for the early detection and subsequent treatment of breast cancer. This event not only works to honor the survivors of breast cancer, but also raises money to help the American Cancer Society with research and increasing access to mammograms for women.

Betty Bang, family nurse practitioner at the UAA Student Health and Counseling Center, emphasized the importance of catching the disease early on.

“I would encourage anyone who has questions or concerns to come in. It can be anything from a lump to skin irritation, dimpling or puckering of the skin,” she said.

Bang also stressed the role of keeping a healthy diet and exercising regularly in lowering one’s risk of developing breast cancer, a commonly lauded tip that can go a long way in helping to combat many other ailments as well.

Many people come in with the mentality that because the disease may not run in their family, they aren’t at risk. In reality, genetically inherited breast cancer accounts for far less cases than those who get it from other factors.

According to the Susan G. Komen for the CURE Foundation, even if an individual has no family history of cancer, is young and doesn’t smoke, breast cancer is still a risk. No one knows the exact causes for breast cancer, but catching the early signs of the disease is the key to increased survival.

While the month of October is sure to have its fill of little pink ribbons and Save the Ta-Tas t-shirts, a commonly forgotten fact is that more than just half the population has breast tissue. Men can also get breast cancer — their pectorals are susceptible to the disease.

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Unfortunately, most men don’t know that this is a disease that can affect them, so the warning signs may go ignored, or they might not tell their doctor what it is they are experiencing out of embarrassment. Many will wait too long to get help, and raising awareness is key in preventing the disease for everyone.

Pay attention to any changes in your body and know what’s normal for you. Warning signs of breast cancer include a lump or hard knot on the chest; swelling, warmth or color changes; a change in size or shape of the breast tissue; dimpling or puckering of the skin; an itchy, scaly score or rash on the nipple; pulling in of the nipple or other parts; sudden discharge; and new pain in one spot that doesn’t go away.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, up to four out of 100 women age 60 will develop breast cancer by the time they are 70. However, Bang made it clear that while the fight against breast cancer has been and continues to be an important one, our efforts should not be entirely focused there and there alone.

“We’re doing a good job of catching it,” she said. “Breast cancer isn’t the number one killer of women. We need to be aware of things like heart disease.”

If you or a family member has concerns that they might be at risk for breast cancer, following the golden rule of early detection, never hesitate to go in and discuss your concerns with a doctor.

For more information about breast cancer prevention, the Student Health and Counseling Center, located in Rasmuson Hall, can provide information and guidance on the matter. Providence Hospital also provides genetic counseling, useful for those who have a family history of the disease.

The 2012 Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk is on Oct. 6, 9 a.m. to noon, located downtown at the Delaney Park Strip, 300 W. 9th Ave. Registration for individuals and groups can be done online at http://bit.ly/QsNoxI.