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Mind Body and Soul: Pinktober – A Month of Breast Cancer Awareness

By Lisha Ross

Each October a very special thing happens. The streets are colored pink as girls, women and the gentlemen who love them band together in the battle against breast cancer. Yes, Breast Cancer Awareness Month is afoot, and it’s time to take action to assist the nearly 1.3 million people, both women and men, that are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. According to the National Cancer Institute, more than 1600 Nevada women are diagnosed with breast cancer annually and 300 of those victims will die from it. But with knowledge comes hope and help! 


Know Your Risk

On an individual level, the battle against breast cancer begins with knowing your personal risk factors. Frightening but true, EVERY body is at risk, though some are at higher risk than others. According to American Cancer Society (ACS) statistics, risk factors include:

Gender: Though men are not immune to the disease, women are 100 times more likely to acquire it. This is due to the fact that female breast cells are continually exposed to growth promoting hormones, namely estrogen and progesterone.

Age: The risk of getting breast cancer increases with age. From 2002 to 2006, 2 out of 3 diagnosed cases of invasive breast cancer occurred in women older than 55, but the fact that 1 out of every 8 occurred in women under 45 is a strong case for preventative measures and screening even for younger women.

Genetics and Family History: Inherited gene mutations account for approximately 5-10% of breast cancer cases, and 20-30% of women with breast cancer have a family member with the disease.

Race and Ethnicity: Caucasians have a slightly higher risk than African Americans. Those of Asian, Hispanic and Native American heritage have lower risks.

Many other factors, including dense breast tissue, recent oral contraceptive use, no children or having them later in life and use of post-menopausal hormone therapy make up your personal risk factor. Of course, having one or several risk factors does not mean you are destined to be afflicted with breast cancer, but knowing what they are is essential in defining an individualized screening program. Dig into your family’s medical history about three generations back by talking to your siblings, mother, grandmother, etc. If you have no living relatives to ask, try accessing death certificates, obituaries and medical records. Collecting and sharing this information with your doctor will help them determine at what age you should start regular mammograms, and if it is necessary to have additional or more frequent check-ups.

Early Pink Bird Special

Quite simply, screening and early detection saves lives. Survival rates have vastly improved in the last 20 years, which the ACS attributes in part to early detection by mammogram screening as well as improvements in treatment.


We’ve all heard horror stories about the infamous mammo; the squeezing of our delicate breasts between two cold plates, the radiation, the occasional false positive that leads to unnecessary biopsies and expenses. But the chance of discovering cancer before symptoms manifest far outweighs the negatives of what some might compare to a medieval torture device. In fact, research shows that when breast cancer is diagnosed in an early stage, the 5-year survival rate is 98%, so the ACS recommends women over 40 get a mammogram every year. For years, mammograms (x-rays of the breast) have been the most effective method of detection. New digital mammography technology is making it even more so.

Digital mammograms replace traditional x-ray film with solid-state detectors that convert x-rays into electrical signals. Much like photos from a digital camera, the images can be viewed on a computer monitor. A radiologist can then adjust the contrast and magnify sections, making it easier to see subtle differences between tissues. This is particularly helpful when it comes to dense breast tissue, as this tissue and malignant cells both appear white on a traditional film mammogram. “This enhanced technology allows us to take breast cancer detection to a higher level,” said William Moore, Chief Executive Officer at Desert Radiologists. “As a result, we will be able to detect breast cancer earlier, allowing for better treatment options for the patient.” Additional benefits of digital mammography include lower levels of radiation exposure and shorter examination times. Visit www.deserttrad.com for more information.

 Clinical Exams & Self Exams

All women are different, as are their breasts. Big, small, dense, light. What’s important is that each woman knows what is normal for her and what isn’t. To increase breast self-awareness, the ACS recommends women start giving themselves monthly exams in their 20s. It is by no means a replacement for professional screening, but will help you identify abnormalities. A breast self exam is a systematic method of inspecting every part of the breast for unusual lumps or growths. You can find step-by-step instructions for this on the ACS website (www.cancer.org), or you can ask your OB/GYN to teach you and then examine your technique. Set up a regular time of month for this self-nurturing practice. A few days after menstruation is ideal, as tenderness should subside by then. If you don’t menstruate, then select a random day, whether it’s on the first day of the month or payday. Abnormalities, including a hard lump or knot near the underarm, changes in the way they look or feel, dimples, puckers, bulges or ridges, redness, swelling or pain, sores, discharge from the nipple, etc., should be reported to your doctor immediately.

It’s also recommended that women between 20 and 40, have a clinical breast exam as part of a regular exam by a health professional at least every 3 years. A clinical breast exam is just like a self-exam; it’s just done by someone who knows exactly what they’re looking for. Should the need arise, your doctor may additionally order magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), ultrasounds or biopsies of suspicious tissue. 

 Care & Support

Being diagnosed is a frightening prospect for anyone, but there are many local places that offer  support and healing, both physically and spiritually. The Caring Place is a nonprofit organization with a mission to support, educate and empower individuals and families during their journeys with cancer to enhance the quality of their lives. They provide no-cost programs and services designed to complement conventional cancer treatments. Programs include yoga, meditation, jewelry making, knitting, Native American flute circle, support groups, guided imagery, Reiki circles, art therapy, massage and Chi Kung. They can be reached at 871-7333 or www.thecaringplacenv.org

The Center for Compassionate Care, the counseling arm of Nathan Adelson Hospice, also seeks to meet the emotional and spiritual needs of patients and families. They offer low or no-cost community counseling to couples, families, children and teens affected by issues of grief, loss and life threatening illnesses. Their breast cancer support services are funded through the Southern Nevada affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Contact them at 796-3167 or visit www.nah.org.

Check out Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s website at www.komensouthernnevada.org for a list of October activities where you can get involved. Volunteer your time or donate a little cash. Everything helps! Just grab your pink ribbons, put on your Save the Ta-Tas® sweatshirts and tees and join the fight. We may not see the end of breast cancer in our lifetime, but together we can provide help, support and love to thousands of women in need.

Additional resources for emotional support, cutting edge diagnostics and treatment:

Comprehensive Cancer Centers of Nevada Breast Surgery Division



The Breast Center at Sunrise



3006 S. Maryland Pkwy.

Barbara Greenspun Women’s Care Center



Henderson: 100 N. Green Valley Pkwy., Ste. 330

Las Vegas: 7220 S. Cimarron Rd., Ste. 195

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  • […] has appeared on social media websites such as twitter, Facebook and youtube calling this month Pinktober, instead of October in respect of breast cancer. celebrities, family and friends, all kinds of […]

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