Awareness just first step in fighting breast cancer

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

We probably don’t need to tell you that. With one in eight women in the U.S. battling breast cancer at some point in her life, you most likely have a friend or loved one who has faced that diagnosis.

What is important to be aware of this month?

The statistics are staggering. Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the U.S., accounting for 30 percent of newly diagnosed cancers. In 2020, more than 276,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women (plus more than 2,600 cases in men).

More than 42,000 women and men in this country are expected to die from breast cancer this year. Black women have a 40 percent higher mortality rate in the U.S. than in white women.

Those statistics, though, are little more than numbers until you or a loved one receives a diagnosis. What do you do then?

We suggest heading to Wellness House, where a host of free programs and support groups can provide the knowledge and encouragement that is so critical at this time.

For a full schedule of upcoming programs and support group meetings (breast cancer and metastatic breast cancer support groups that meet monthly and a living with metastatic breast cancer support group that meets weekly), visit

How can you lower your risk of breast cancer and increase your chance of early detection?

The American Cancer Society suggests maintaining a healthy weight, getting enough physical activity (150 to 300 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous intensity each week) and avoiding or limiting alcohol to reduce the risk of breast cancer.

Women also should conduct monthly self-exams and have an annual clinical breast exam and mammography screening. Amita Health offers an online breast cancer screening to identify both five-year and lifetime risk.

The screening, available at takes less than five minutes to complete.

How can you support organizations that work to fight breast cancer and/or support those who have it?

Gifts made to the Susan G. Komen® by Oct. 31 will be tripled by a generous group of donors and long-time partner, Bank of America — up to a total of $100,000.

Donations to Amita Hinsdale Hospital’s Open Arms Breast Cancer Outreach Fund help provide free mammograms for women who otherwise couldn’t afford them.

Or you can purchase a variety of breast cancer awareness masks and other products on etsy, with a portion of sales going to various nonprofits.

“2020 has been a powerful reminder that we are all in this together, and our choices and actions have the power to protect the most vulnerable among us in a big way,” the National Breast Cancer Foundation states on its website. “The same holds true when it comes to breast cancer.”

Progress is being made. Sixty-four percent of cases are diagnosed before they spread and have a five-year survival rate of 99 percent. Death rates from breast cancer have been declining since about 1990.

Let Breast Cancer Awareness Month serve as a reminder to us all to do what we need to keep those numbers moving in the right direction.