Breast Cancer Awareness Month is officially underway.
October is national Breast Cancer Awareness Month, an annual campaign to increase awareness of the disease.
Nashville's News 2 This Morning joined ABC and Good Morning America to "Go Pink" on Tuesday to kickoff the month-long effort.
According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), breast cancer is the most common cancer among women, excluding skin cancer. The chance of a woman having invasive breast cancer some time during her life is less than 1 in 8.
ACS estimates 232,340 women and 2,240 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013. More than 40,030 will die from the disease, and anyone is at risk.
"Most cases of breast cancer are sporadic. Only about 10 to 15 percent of breast cancer cases are actually genetically related, meaning there is a mutation in either the Breast Cancer I or the Breast Cancer II gene," said Dr. Robin Williams, a breast surgeon with Tennessee Breast Specialists at St Thomas Midtown.
"I was diagnosed when I was 35 in 2006," said Kimberly Stanke. "[My doctor] started talking about treatment that I may need, whether I needed a lumpectomy or mastectomy. I could expect chemotherapy, radiation, be on tamoxifen, and I was still stuck on, 'You have cancer.'"
Stanke, like most patients, was devastated by her diagnosis. She lost her mother to the disease.
Marilyn Wyatt-Harris had the support of her sisters, also breast cancer survivors, when she got her diagnosis in 2009, but was also taken aback by her doctor's words.
"I'm not one of those 'take it lightly' kind of people," she recalled. "So I said, 'Do you want me to fall out now or what 'til you leave the room?'"
Stanke and Wyatt-Harris are among those who caught the disease early and survived.
"Greater than 50% of breast cancer cases are diagnosed in the early stages, stages 0 to 2," said Dr. Williams.
Early diagnosis is the result of early detection made through regular breast exams and mammograms.
The American Cancer Society (ACS) screening guidelines recommend women begin self breast exams once a month beginning at age 20. Clinical breast exams, those done by a physician, are recommended every three years for women ages 20 to 39, and every year for women 40 and older. Regular mammograms should begin at age 40, unless otherwise directed by a physician.
The guidelines are only part of a larger effort by the ACS to promote breast health. Since 1984, the national organization has hosted Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walks to raise awareness about the steps to take to reduce the risk of getting breast cancer and to raise money to fund research.
For years, breast cancer patients and survivors have been the loudest advocates for awareness and support.
"To help somebody else, it renews my commitment to preventing cancer," said Veronica Gliatti, diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007.
"I'm still here," Jennifer Hamilton said, 11 and a half years after her cancer diagnosis. "I'm rockin' the hats and rockin' the pink to let other women know, you know, you can beat this."
"Now I'm healthy, I'm ready to fight. I'm fighting for everybody else that has it, and that's what I'm here for today," added Kim Sissom, diagnosed in 2012, less than two years after her sister's death from breast cancer.
Treatments have come a long way in the fight against breast cancer, but there is no cure. Early detection has long been touted as the protection against the potentially deadly disease.
The pink-filled events of October are a bright reminder of those who have won, those who have lost, and those who continue to fight against breast cancer.
For more information on breast cancer, visit the American Cancer Society Web site.
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