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Think pink to save lives

Editorial

On Monday, The Albany Herald will have a special look. The newspaper will be printed, as it has been in late September for the past several years, on pink paper.

The reason? To help raise awareness about an important health issue — breast cancer.

Breast cancer is the second most common cancer in women, trailing only skin cancer. Catching it in time to get life-saving treatment takes action, and action comes only after awareness. The pink paper stock that Monday’s Herald will be printed on is a reminder of the importance of early detection, followed by early treatment.

Those two things greatly improve a woman’s chances of making a full recovery and living a long, healthy life.

While the focus of breast cancer awareness is usually aimed toward women, it affects men as well, though it is much more rare. In 2009, the latest year that statistics are available from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, there were 2,001 men diagnosed with breast cancer and 400 deaths were attributed to the disease.

That same year, 211,731 women were diagnosed with breast cancer. Excluding some skin cancers, it is the most common cancer to strike women across all races and ethnicities. It’s also the second-most cause of cancer-related death, trailing lung cancer, among women of all races, with 40,676 deaths occurring in the United States in 2009.

There is some good news to go along with those sobering statistics. The rate of cancer per 100,000 women has dropped from 134.7 in 1999 to 123.1 in 2009. The overall death rate for women from the disease has also declined during that period, dropping from 26.6 deaths out of 100,000 women to 22.2 in 2009.

Early detection and early treatment are key to beating breast cancer. A statistic that is particularly troubling to our area is the statistics show that African-American women have a higher mortality rate. Comparing 100 white women diagnosed with breast cancer to 100 African-American women, the CDC says nine more women will die from the African-American group. That difference occurs even though the two groups in 2010 (ages 50-74) had virtually the same frequency of biennial mammograms (74 percent for white women, 73 percent for African Americans).

In acting on an abnormal mammogram result, however, the CDC said that African-American women were less likely to get a followup within 60 days (20 percent compared to 13 percent of white women under the same circumstance) and start treatment within 30 days — 69 percent of African-American women compared to 83 percent of white women. African-American women were also less likely to receive the surgery, radiation and hormone treatments they needed.

So while great strides have been made, there is more than needs to be done in educating and reaching out to those who are at-risk. It’s truly a case in which what you don’t know can hurt you, and possibly kill you.

If you’re overdue for a mammogram, please schedule one. If you don’t do regular self-exams, today’s a perfect time to begin. In the majority of cases, you’re simply going to get confirmation that everything’s fine. But if something is wrong, finding it early and promptly getting the health care you need are critical.

What you do today will have a tremendous influence on your future, and the futures of those you love.

The Albany Herald Editorial Board