EDITORIAL: Breast cancer awareness paying off

Beyond the tragedy of breast cancer and the thousands of lives it affects and ends every year, there is hope.

Breast cancer is detectable and treatable.

With that in mind, the cover of today’s Las Vegas Review-Journal was printed on pink paper to remind readers that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

It has been about three decades since the Susan G. Komen Foundation held its first Race for the Cure. About two decades ago, the foundation began handing out pink ribbons at its fundraising runs to call attention to the disease. Since then, the link between pink and breast cancer has greatly expanded to include everything from clothing to yogurt container lids. Pro baseball players have swung pink bats. Even the Strip’s famous “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign has gone pink.

Especially during the month of October, pink expresses support for women undergoing treatment for breast cancer, recognizes those who survived their fight with the disease, honors those who died and reminds everyone that steps can be taken and more must be done to keep breast cancer from striking in the first place.

The disease kills about 40,000 American women each year. About one in eight women can expect to be diagnosed with it in their lifetime. The disease hits men as well, albeit in much smaller numbers — about 1 in 1,000.

However, breast cancer rates have declined about 2 percent per year since 1999, and the breast cancer mortality rate has fallen 34 percent since 1990. These trends are attributable to improvements in treatment and early detection.

Consider that in 1980, the five-year relative survival rate for women diagnosed with early stage breast cancer was about 74 percent. Today, it’s 99 percent. There are now more than 3 million breast cancer survivors in the United States.

The foundation reports that about 70 percent of women age 40 and older receive regular mammograms, the single most effective screening tool to find breast cancer early. The National Cancer Institute now recommends that women older than 40 get a mammogram every year or every other year, depending on family history and risk factors. The federal government now devotes more than $850 million each year to breast cancer research, treatment and prevention, compared with $30 million in 1982.

Through the month of October, every Thursday, the Review-Journal will feature a pink cover and content related to breast cancer awareness. We want to see all the aforementioned numbers get even better.

The victims of breast cancer need support, but not just from loved ones, friends, health care professionals and researchers. They need support from you.

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