If you asked people what colors they associate with October, most would probably mention colors like orange, brown and yellow, referring to what is normally seen in nature. But if you were then to ask them, “What about pink?” those same people would probably know exactly what you were talking about.

October is “Breast Cancer Awareness Month,” and the symbol of this cause is most commonly the pink ribbon. When people see these pink ribbons, they immediately know what they mean. That is good news because it means awareness about the disease and the quest for treatment has received a lot of attention. The increased awareness is paying off.

Death rates have been declining since 1990, and from 1999 to 2005 breast cancer incidence rates decreased by two percent each year, according to breastcancer.org. In 2011, more than 2.6 million breast cancer survivors were living in the United States.

Most people understand the role that age plays in developing breast cancer. Simply stated, the older a woman gets the greater the chance of being diagnosed. However, it can affect women at any age, particularly if there is a family history of the disease.

Early detection and prompt action is critical, and Breast Cancer Awareness Month reminds everyone of something that is probably not always on the tops of our minds. I strongly encourage all women to be screened regularly. It is worth the moderate discomfort, because the alternative can be devastating for families and communities.

We have seen noticeable improvements in women of all ages on this issue. Breast cancer remains the most common cause of cancer deaths among women, but fortunately the trends are moving in the right direction.


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