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October is breast cancer awareness month

It’s the month of pink. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, an effort to bring attention to a disease that affects about 12 percent of all women.

It’s also an opportunity for organizations to raise money for survivors or cancer research. Locally, several groups have hosted or are planning breast cancer awareness events.

Lincoln County’s MSGirls4ACure hopes to financially assist three local families affected by breast cancer. A Girl Scout group also raised funds to help survivors.

These efforts, and many more in the area, come on the heels of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, which was in September. A Brookhaven mother and daughter joined with Walmart to raise awareness about childhood cancer. They also helped raised money for Blair E. Batson Children’s Hospital in Jackson.

We all know someone who has been affected by cancer, and many of us know the painful journey that patients and their families take.

Though breast cancer incidence rates have decreased in recent years, the disease is only second to lung cancer as a cause of death in women. About 40,450 women will die from breast cancer in 2016, according to the American Cancer Society.

If nothing else, this month should serve as a reminder that early detection can save lives. There are as many as 2.8 million breast cancer survivors in the U.S.

“Most doctors feel that early detection tests for breast cancer save thousands of lives each year,” ACS wrote on its website. “Many more lives probably could be saved if even more women and their health care providers took advantage of these tests.”

There’s been some confusion about how often women should have mammograms. The United States Preventative Task force recommends that women who are 50 to 74 years old and are at average risk for breast cancer get a mammogram every two years. Women who are 40 to 49 years old should talk to their doctor or other health care professional about when to start and how often to get a mammogram. Women should weigh the benefits and risks of screening tests when deciding whether to begin getting mammograms at age 40.

The American Cancer Society recommends that women ages 40 to 44 should have the choice to start annual breast cancer screening with mammograms if they wish to do so. Women age 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year, and women age 55 and older should switch to mammograms every two years, or have the choice to continue yearly screening.

Though mammograms aren’t perfect, they can help save lives.

Once the pink is gone and the awareness walks are over, women should continue to make their health a priority. That means talking with a doctor about breast cancer and scheduling a mammogram at the appropriate time.