Breast cancer information from ACS

The National Breast Cancer Awareness Month program is dedicated to increasing awareness about the importance of the early detection of breast cancer through a nationwide campaign each October. NBCAM started as a weeklong campaign in 1985 with two founding members.

Today, the American Cancer Society is one of many national public service organizations, professional associations, and government agencies that form the NBCAM Board of Sponsors. During NBCAM, member organizations join forces to spread the message that early detection of breast cancer followed by prompt treatment saves lives.

Breast cancer fast facts

• Every three minutes, another woman is diagnosed with breast cancer.

• Mammography is still the best way to beat breast cancer. Mammography can detect breast cancer early, usually before physical symptoms develop, when the disease is most treatable. Yearly mammograms are recommended starting at age 40. The five-year survival rate for breast cancer is 98 percent among women whose cancer has not spread beyond the breast at time of diagnosis.

• According to ACS, breast cancer is the most common non-skin cancer in American women and the second leading cause of cancer death. An estimated 192,370 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women in the U.S. this year.

• This year alone, 40,170 women are expected to die from breast cancer.

• In 2009, 1,910 cases of breast cancer are expected to occur among men, which accounts for about one percent of all breast cancers.

• Women can lower their risk of breast cancer. The best preventive health strategies are to maintain a healthy body weight, get exercise, and reduce alcohol consumption.

Services for survivors

The American Cancer Society offers many free services to help patients overcome daily challenges, like help with transportation, lodging, guidance through the cancer experience, and information to help families make decisions about care. ACS is available to take calls, 24 hours a day at (800) 227-2345.

Trained ACS volunteers –breast cancer survivors – provide one-on-one support to newly diagnosed patients through the society’s Reach to Recovery program.

Through face-to-face visits or by phone, volunteers give support for:

• people recently diagnosed with breast cancer;

• people facing a possible diagnosis of breast cancer;

• those interested in or who have undergone a lumpectomy or mastectomy;

• those considering breast reconstruction;

• those with lymphedema;

• those who are undergoing or who have completed treatment such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy;

• people facing breast cancer recurrence or metastasis (the spread of cancer to another part of the body).

The society partners with volunteer beauty professionals to deliver Look Good...Feel Better, a free service that teaches women beauty tips to look better and feel good about how they look during chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

Anyone can take advantage of a group workshop where women learn about makeup, skin care, nail care, and ways to deal with hair loss such as with wigs, turbans and scarves. Each woman gets a free makeup kit to use during and after the workshop.

ACS also offers a free, one time one-on-one salon consultation with a volunteer cosmetologist. These trained beauty experts help each patient manage her skin, nail, and hair needs and also help her find ways to feel better about how she looks during treatment.

Free self-help materials can also be ordered by calling (800) 395-LOOK. Materials include a 30-minute video entitled “Just for You: A Step-by-Step Guide to Help You Look Good and Feel Better During Cancer Treatment,” an instructional booklet and an evaluation form. The video features cancer survivors and volunteers talking about the ways cancer treatment and side effects can affect the way you look. It also covers detailed skin care information, makeup tips, wig information, and pointers on head coverings.

Native American breast cancer video

ACS has a number of breast cancer videos available to help educate women on breast cancer.

Filmed in South Dakota with an all-Native American cast, survivors share stories and talk about the importance of mammography screening in a video geared toward Native Americans. The society involved Native Americans from start to finish in the filming process in order to ensure that the video campaign would be culturally relevant, while at the same time, reaching out to general audiences. To order a copy call (800) 227-2345.

Finding cures

The society is working to find cures, and has spent more on breast cancer research than on any other cancer – investing more than $388 million in breast cancer research grants.

Making Strides Against Breast Cancer is the society’s premier event to raise awareness and funds to fight breast cancer. But it’s more than just the name of a walk – it describes the amazing progress being made to defeat this disease. Since 1993, nearly five million walkers have raised more than $340 million through Making Strides. In 2008 alone, nearly 600,000 walkers across the country collected more than $60 million to help fight breast cancer.

For information about this article, contact Charlotte Hofer, American Cancer Society at charlotte.hofer@cancer.org.