HELMING: Busting the myths around Breast Cancer

Many of us, myself included, know people who have been personally impacted by breast cancer. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and it is important that we use this opportunity to raise awareness, recognize survivors, and remember those we lost. In fact, one in eight women will face this diagnosis sometime during their lifetime. We must continue to spread awareness, and I encourage all women to get screened and discuss breast cancer with their doctors.

This month and throughout the year, I am proud to support the Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester (BCCR), the Adelphi NY Statewide Breast Cancer Hotline and Support Program, and the Cancer Services Program of Ontario, Seneca, Wayne and Yates Counties. These three organizations provide services and resources to those diagnosed with breast cancer around our region and our state. BCCR can be reached through its website at www.bccr.org, while Adelphi can be reached through its website at www.breast-cancer.adelphi.edu/ and the Cancer Services Program can be contacted at (315) 462-0602.

During each Monday in October, I am partnering with BCCR through its Ribbon Busters social media campaign by posting a different myth about breast cancer. Those of you who have visited my Facebook page have probably seen these Ribbon Busters already, but in case you haven’t, I wanted to share them with you now.

Early detection equals prevention.

Mammography and other screening tests detect cancer already present in the breast. Getting regular mammograms does not prevent you from getting breast cancer, nor do mammograms always detect the disease. To end breast cancer, we need more focus on understanding how to prevent it from developing and how to stop it from spreading to other parts of the body.

Metastatic, or advanced, breast cancer is not treatable.

When breast cancer spreads to other parts of the body, it can and should be treated. While treatment for cancer that remains in the breast will eventually end, treatment for metastatic disease is lifelong and focuses on control of the disease and quality of life. Due to advances in treatment and an aging population, increasing numbers of those who face metastatic breast cancer are living many long, productive, fulfilling years.

If you have family members diagnosed with breast cancer, it is likely you will be, too.

Only 15 percent of those diagnosed with breast cancer have relatives with the disease. A family history is only one risk factor. Other risk factors include aging, benign breast problems, early exposure to ionizing radiation, having children later in life or not at all, longer exposure to estrogen and progesterone, lack of exercise, and drinking alcohol.

Women under 50 are more often diagnosed with breast cancer.

The median age of those diagnosed with breast cancer is 62. The biggest risk factors for the disease are being a woman and growing older. Men can get breast cancer as well, although the condition is rare. Less than 1 percent of new diagnoses occur among men.

Breast cancer treatment should be aggressive.

More treatment is not always better treatment. Recent advances have shown that less invasive treatments are, in certain cases, as effective as more aggressive treatments that have become the standard of care. For those in whom less treatment yields the same result as a more intensive approach, long-term side effects of treatment can be minimized.

To those fighting this disease and those who have been impacted, please know your fight is my fight. As State Senator, I will continue to do everything possible to support research to find a cure and support those battling this disease.

Senator Helming represents the 54th Senate District, which consists of Seneca and Wayne Counties, parts of Cayuga and Ontario Counties, and the towns of Lansing and Webster. For more information, please visit Senator Helming’s website, or follow @SenatorHelming on Facebook or Twitter.