October is recognized as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month in an effort to help those affected by the disease and raise funds for research into its cause, prevention, diagnosis, treatment and cure. With 1 in 8 women in the U.S. being diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime, it’s important to continue learning about the disease and take steps to minimize risks in order to save more lives.
Fortunately, breast cancer deaths have been declining since 1990 due to early detection, better screenings, increased awareness and improved treatment options. Still, we are losing too many lives to this disease, with more than 266,000 people in the U.S. expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer this year alone, resulting in nearly 41,000 deaths.
Important steps to reduce the risk of breast cancer include maintaining a healthy weight, being physically active, eating fruits and vegetables, not smoking and limiting alcohol consumption. Early detection through self-examinations and mammograms are key. Performing monthly self-breast exams can help you to more easily identify any changes and spot symptoms. If you notice anything abnormal, consult your doctor.
Oftentimes, those with breast cancer have no symptoms. A mammogram, which is an x-ray of the breast that looks for changes that may be signs of cancer, is currently the best screening test available. According to the American Cancer Society, women aged 40 to 44 have the choice to start annual mammograms. Those aged 45 to 54 should get mammograms each year, and women 55 and older can continue yearly screenings or switch to getting a mammogram every two years.
There is help for those who do not have the financial means to pay for follow-up services once breast cancer symptoms are found. The Little Red Door Cancer Agency is a non-profit providing diagnostic services including mammograms, ultrasounds and biopsies to low-income, uninsured or underinsured women and men who locate a lump or experience pain. Visit www.littlereddoor.org or call 317-925-5595 for more information.
Indiana also offers the Breast and Cervical Cancer Program, which provides access to screenings, diagnostic testing and treatment for underserved and underinsured women who qualify for services. Each year, the program operated by the Indiana State Department of Health serves 6,000 to 7,000 Hoosiers.
The Cancer Support Community of Central Indiana offers various programs to those with breast cancer, including strength training classes and support groups that go hand-in-hand with medical treatments. The free classes and programs provided by the Cancer Support Community work to raise the quality of life for cancer patients and their loved ones. To explore all of the programs dedicated to those impacted by a cancer diagnosis, call 317-257-1505 or visit cancersupportindy.org.
In October, we will experience a “Pink Out,” with many opportunities to support breast cancer organizations and survivors, while honoring those we have lost to the disease.  The 6th annual Pynkalycious breast cancer awareness event on Saturday, Oct. 6 raises funds for survivors and research to benefit the Little Red Door Cancer Agency. A “Stars of Pink” breast cancer survivor fashion show will take place Saturday, Oct. 13 at the Indianapolis Marriott. For more information on this event, call 317-255-PINK (7465).
A Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk will take place Saturday, Oct. 20 at Victory Field. More information about this and other opportunities to get involved during Breast Cancer Awareness Month can be found at makingstrideswalk.org.
Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women, and men can suffer from the disease as well. While survival rates continue to increase, breast cancer remains a significant health problem. Please take steps to reduce risks, perform self-evaluations and get mammogram screenings.
- Kathy Kreag Richardson is a Republican State Representative from District 29, which includes Noblesville, and has served in the legislature since 1992. She also is the elections administrator for Hamilton County. You may contact her at h29@in.gov