CULTON: October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Most of us know at least one person who has been affected by breast cancer. Maybe it’s a family member or friend. Maybe it’s that one friendly neighbor or a coworker.

No matter who it is, odds are we all know someone who has been touched by cancer — but it’s not often talked about. As October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it’s time to shed light on how breast cancer affects our communities and what we can do to help.

According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, an estimated one in eight women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. In 2020 alone, an estimated 276,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women in the U.S. as well as 48,530 new cases of non-invasive breast cancer. Additionally, though rarer, an estimated 2,620 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year in the U.S., and approximately 520 will die.

These are staggering numbers. But there are a few things we, as southwest Michigan residents, can do to help local cancer patients and fight for a cure.

• Take care of yourself first — If you are a woman age 40 or above, be sure to schedule yourself an annual mammogram, a non-invasive X-ray used to check breasts for breast cancer and other abnormalities. Mammograms have helped reduce breast cancer mortality in the U.S. by nearly 40 percent since 1990 by catching the disease in its early, localized stages, according to the American College of Radiology.

• Donate to Borgess Lee’s Tree of Love — Give the gift of a mammogram to another woman in Cass County. Ascension Borgess Lee’s annual Tree of Love Campaign gathers funds to provide uninsured and under-insured women in Cass County with mammograms. According to the hospital, nearly one in five women can’t afford the insurance coverage or the money for a mammogram. These mammograms can save lives, so if you are able to give that gift, visit borgessleefoundation.org/en/events/tree-of-love.

• Donate to your local cancer service — Both Berrien County Cancer Services and Cass County Cancer Service do great work in our communities to care for existing cancer patients. Cass County Cancer Service provides patients with gas cards and other financial assistance, while Berrien County Cancer Service provides nursing care, medical equipment and supplies loans, offers support groups and more. Both organizations care about the people in their communities and do a lot to help. For more information, visit bccancerservice.org or facebook.com/Cass-Co-Cancer-Service.

• Raise your voice — If you are not in a position to give, you can help just by using your voice to raise awareness about breast cancer. The more people know about it, the importance of mammograms and the organizations that help patients, the closer we get to winning the fight against breast cancer.

And don’t forget to keep raising your voice once Breast Cancer Awareness Month is over, this disease affects or communities year-round — not just in October.

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