With treatment, breast cancer no longer a death sentence

It is hard to believe that we are over halfway through October. The leaves are changing, temperatures are dropping lower at night, daylight is getting shorter. Color dominates the landscape with various shades of red, orange, purple, magenta, brown, yellow and …pink?

While nature displays such a beautiful combination of colors from the changing leaves of trees and plants, it is not unusual at this time of year for us to see manmade displays of orange and black for Halloween and pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Pink ribbons, pink socks, pink streamers, pink shirts, pink shoes, pink anything will do. We are even told to “Think Pink!”

Using the pink ribbon to draw awareness to breast cancer originated in the early 1990s when SELF magazine, along with companies like Estee Lauder and Avon, used the colorful ribbon in their product promotions. Since then hundreds of companies and corporations use the pink ribbon or some form of “pink” to raise funds for breast cancer causes. From 1992 through 2016, Avon alone gave over $800 million for breast cancer research, education, screenings, and treatment. While many companies and organizations commit to giving a percentage of sales to breast cancer research and prevention, not all are so altruistic. Unfortunately, some take advantage of marketing a profusion of pink products strictly to profit themselves. (If you choose to donate to any cause, it is wise to investigate the organization or company to learn what percentage of your hard-earned money is used for the purpose you intend.)


Some Breast Cancer Facts (From www.breastcancer.org)

About 1 in 8 women in the U.S. who reach the age of 80 will develop invasive breast cancer.

Besides skin cancer, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among American women.

In 2019, it’s estimated that approximately 30% of newly diagnosed cancers in women will be breast cancer.

The greatest risk factor for women is age/growing older.

Since the early 2000s breast cancer incidence rates have declined. Increased awareness, early detection through screening, and advances in treatment are some of the reasons for the decline.

Men can get breast cancer; this year’s projection is that 2,550 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer in the U.S.

There are many types of breast cancer and they are not all treated in the same way.

If you are like me, you are a bit tired of hearing the same advice repeatedly. Yes, it can be tedious, but following these steps can save you or your loved one’s life.

Do maintain a healthy weight, eat more fruits and veggies, and exercise to lower risk.

Do NOT smoke.

Do breastfeed if possible. Breastfeeding for a year or more decreases risk.

Do monthly self-exams. Report any abnormalities to your physician. Note: Breast cancer does not always cause a lump, especially in early stages.

Do get a yearly mammogram starting around age 40.

Do avoid post-menopausal hormones.

These few recommendations can aid in the prevention and detection of breast cancer. Learn more by going online, talking to your health care provider, or even doing the old-fashioned trip to the local library. We may not be able to prevent getting a disease, but we can make wise choices that will improve our likelihood of living a healthier and longer life.

Science has come a long way since my grandmother died from breast cancer in 1969. Today I, and most likely you, know many survivors–both friends and family–who traveled the physical, emotional, and spiritual journey through cancer, and now flourish. Breast cancer, as all cancer, needs to be taken very seriously; but with advances in research, education, detection, and treatment it no longer is the “death sentence” once believed. Today, there truly is hope.

Now put on that pink ribbon, get outside, and enjoy the beautiful colors of October that God has provided you!


Suellen Lewis is a staff chaplain at Geisinger Lewistown Hospital. As both a former math teacher and associate pastor, she continues to be amazed at how God uses our experiences, abilities, and gifts to minister to others. She is available at Geisinger-Lewistown Hospital Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Contact the Spiritual Care Office at (717) 242-7059.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)