Editorial: Everyone knows someone

If breast cancer hasn’t touched your life yet, it will.

One of the unofficial mantras of breast cancer fighters and survivors is “Everyone knows someone.” Whether it’s a mother, aunt, neighbor, friend, nephew (yes, men get breast cancer, too), co-worker, child, or teacher, chances are there are far fewer than six degrees of separation between every living American and breast cancer.

More than 230,000 Americans will learn they have breast cancer this year alone. More than 39,000 people will die from it. Literally millions (an estimated 2.6 million) of women are alive today who either have or had breast cancer. Even for those who have successfully battled this disease and are now living cancer-free (and the number doing so is increasing every day), the fear and the reality of it never really go away.

The numbers, like the disease itself, can seem overwhelming. That’s one of the reasons why, more than 25 years ago, October was designated as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The goal was, and still is, to educate women about early breast cancer detection, diagnosis and treatment.

Mammography screenings are a woman’s best chance for detecting breast cancer early. When coupled with new treatment options, mammography screenings can significantly improve a woman’s chances of survival. Death rates from breast cancer are going down.

But mammography screenings are effective only if women have them. Women must take control of their own breast health — educate themselves, do self-exams, and schedule regular mammograms. In fact, pick up the phone and schedule one today.

The wonderful thing about Breast Cancer Awareness Month is it has spurred hundreds of thousands of people to action. Throughout the next month, people will be taking part in events like the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer in New York City (Oct. 20-21) and Making Strides Against Breast Cancer (in Westport Sunday, Oct. 21). Not only do these events raise money for research and help spread awareness about the disease, they are empowering for all involved.

Show your support this month for the millions of women — and men, too — who have been touched by breast cancer.