BU Today

In the World

Spreading the Word About Breast Cancer

An estimated 2.3 million women have breast cancer, the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women in the United States. The disease trails only lung and bronchial cancers among the leading causes of cancer-related deaths, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And yet fewer women have been getting mammograms, a diagnostic test that a recent CDC study found can help cut breast cancer deaths by a third.

Volunteers across the country are conducting educational and awareness campaigns about the disease throughout October, National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Earlier this month, the BU chapter of the Gamma Phi Beta sorority held a breast cancer awareness fair, with informational handouts and entertainment.

Common risk factors for the disease include gender (women are almost 100 times more likely than men to get breast cancer), age (women age 60 and older are more at risk), and previous cancers or breast disease. Family history and genetics can also play a role.

Breast cancer is detectable through regular measures that include mammography screening, clinical breast exams performed by health-care providers, and self-examinations. Certain lifestyle changes can lower the risk of developing breast cancer, among them decreasing daily fat intake, increasing dietary fiber, not smoking, and staying active.

There are a number of support groups in the Boston area for those who have been diagnosed and for survivors. Local institutions offering support groups include Boston Medical Center, Tufts-New England Medical Center, and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Throughout the year, and especially during October, volunteers are helping to spread the word about breast cancer, posting flyers around their communities or in their offices, writing letters to their local newspapers, talking to friends, and wearing the symbol for fighting breast cancer — a pink ribbon pin.

Brian Sirman, a campus residence hall director, can be reached at bsirman@bu.edu.