National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM)
October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and is dedicated to increasing awareness of breast cancer issues, especially the importance of early detection. It works through a nationwide education campaign aimed at the general public, state and federal governments, healthcare professionals, employers, and women of all ages and ethnic groups.
The first NBCAM program took place in October 1985 as a week-long event to fill the information void in public communication about breast cancer. The two founding members of the Board of Sponsors, the American Academy of Family Physicians and Cancer Care, Inc., distributed brochures, spoke to news reporters, and testified before a U.S. Congressional committee about the crucial need for widespread access to mammography. Former First Lady Betty Ford, a breast cancer survivor and one of the first public figures to speak out about the disease, joined her daughter Susan Ford Bales in a televised emotional appeal to call attention to the importance of screening. Soon after, other public figures, industry executives, community leaders, members of the media, nonprofit organizations, and many individual women further galvanized national public interest.
Today, the Board of Sponsors is composed of 19 national public service organizations, professional medical associations, and government agencies working in partnership to raise awareness and provide access to screening services. The program depends on the efforts of NBCAM Program Leaders to reach women where they live, work, play and worship. One of the ways in which you can assure your future health is to schedule regular mammograms and monthly self-exams for early detection. We can stamp out many forms of breast cancer by taking responsibility for our health and arranging for regular exams.
More than 200,000 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year and more than 40,000 will die from the disease. However, early detection greatly increases your chances of survival. National mortality rates declined by 2.3 percent annually between 1990 and 2000 thanks to early detection and better treatment.
Women in their 20s and 30s should have a clinical breast exam performed by a health care professional every three years and should perform a breast self-exam once a month to check for physical changes. Make it a habit. Monthly exams will allow you to become familiar with your breasts and learn what feels normal. Annual mammograms are generally not recommended until age 40, but a baseline mammogram may be helpful for women 35 years and older. This is especially true if you have a family history of breast cancer or a personal history of benign breast lumps.
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