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Awareness, prevention and research keys to eradicating breast cancer

Think pink.

That’s the watchword for many this month as the national breast cancer awareness begins.

Breast cancer is cancer that forms in tissues of the breasts, usually the ducts or tubes that carry milk to the nipple and the lobules or glands that make milk. Breast cancer occurs in both men and women. Male breast cancer is rare.

The National Cancer Institute estimates 182,460 new cases in 2008 and 40,480 deaths this year in females. In males, new cases are estimated at 1,990 and 450 deaths.

The institute points out that scientists look at risk factors and protective factors when figuring out how to prevent cancer. The cancer risk factor is anything that increases your chance of developing breast cancer — being female, over 40, family history of breast cancer, obesity, current or recent use of birth control pills, lack of exercise and not breastfeeding.

Getting tested is the best way to lower the risk of dying from breast cancer. Learn how to self-examine your breasts. It’s called becoming breast aware. Check with a physician if you have a lump, hard knot or thickening in your breast; swelling, warmth, redness or darkening; change in the size or shape of the breast; dimpling or puckering of the skin; itch, scaly sore or rash on the nipple; a pulling in of the nipple or other parts of the breast; nipple discharge that begins suddenly; or new pain in one spot that doesn’t go away.

Have a mammogram every year at age 40, if you are at average risk. Have a clinical breast exam at least every three years, beginning at age 20, and every year starting at 40.

Other than becoming aware, please help. Support campaigns for research, such as the Winn-Dixie pink campaign.

After all, research is the key for a cure.