Breast Cancer Awareness Month: For Women Globally.

Breast Cancer is a type of cancer that predominantly affects women. One in eight women will receive a diagnosis of breast cancer. It affects women of all races and is most prevalent in women over 50 years of age. There are risk factors such as age, genetics, medication, and environmental exposure to certain toxins that can increase or exacerbate risk.

Risk factors can vary depending on race, environment, and culture. For example, a study by the World Cancer Research Fund attributed the drinking culture in Britain to the higher incidence of breast cancer in women. This was compared to women in East Africa where women have virtually no exposure to alcohol. The highest incidence rates are in women in the West including the United States, United Kingdom, Europe, Australia, and Canada. However, ethnic women in western countries are also at a greater risk. The World Health Organization (WHO) attributes this increased risk in the West to the lifestyle.

Regardless of location, women should be taught to be aware of any changes in the breast. For some women it is uncomfortable touching or looking at their bodies, so health educators have begun to address this through creative resources that are inclusive to all women.

The creator of Worldwide Beast Cancer uses visual imagery in the form of lemons and cupcakes to educate women about breast cancer. The hard seed in a lemon is demonstrated as what a tumor looks like. The images, which only show a silhouette of a woman, make it easy for women of all ethnicities to relate. In focus groups, women in Qatar reported that ““I love the idea that the woman has no features and black hair, which could make her Indian, Pakistani, Asian or Arab.” The development of visual materials facilitates learning where sometimes literacy issues may be a problem.

In the United Kingdom, Europe, and Canada prevention and screening are covered by governmental supported programs. In the United States, women with insurance can access regular mammograms and treatment if necessary. There are programs to cover women without health insurance and women can contact the National Cancer Institute for information. Since breast cancer incidence remains low in other developing nations, governmental focus is often not on breast cancer. The World Health Organization has documented programs in India as a role model and good basis of prevention and screening. Organized screening programs are made available in certain areas and local distribution of literature promotes breast awareness. Prevention for all women regardless of ethnicity includes guidelines for a healthy lifestyle, avoiding tobacco use, limiting alcohol intake, keeping weight within healthy limits. Others can be beyond the individual woman’s control such as exposure to radiation and carcinogens (cancer causing substances).

While the exact cause of breast cancer has not been pinpointed, it is a treatable and manageable disease. Statistics in the US show that women of all races the mortality rate was only 24 in 100,000. Some of the resources discussed and presented in this article can be used by friends and family members and shared in their communities to raise awareness about breast cancer.