In October, you often see a lot of orange and black as people begin to decorate for Halloween, but more and more, you’re starting to see pink. That’s because October has taken on a whole new and more important meaning. October is breast cancer awareness month.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women and affects thousands of women every year, but it is treatable. In fact, there are millions of breast cancer survivors out there. The key is early detection and treatment. That’s why October is dedicated to educating people about breast cancer and how to prevent and treat it.

Like many cancers, the earlier it is detected and treated, the more likely it is to go into remission. There are several steps you can take to increase your chances of detecting a problem early.

* Get yearly or bi-yearly mammograms. You may need to get a mammogram more often if your doctor thinks there might be a problem, or if you have a history of breast cancer in your family.

* Do a monthly breast self-exam. This is one of the most important steps you can take to ensure your own breast health, and it’s also how most breast lumps are discovered. Learn to look at and feel your breast for any changes in color, shape, size, texture, and any lumps.

* Get a yearly exam. See a doctor for a yearly breast and reproductive exam. They can help detect early problems and address any questions of concerns you might have.

* Don’t ignore problems. Many women are embarrassed to talk to their doctor about their breast or reproductive health, but what might be a small issue now could turn into a big problem later. No question is silly and no problem is too small; never be afraid to talk to your doctor.

Protecting yourself is just the first step in fighting breast cancer. The second step is informing others of the dangers and precautions as well. Every woman, including your mother, sisters, daughters, friends, co-workers, and any other women you know, should be aware of the dangers of breast cancer and how to protect herself. That’s why it’s important to talk to the women in your life. You can even start a group with your friends and family to remind each other to do monthly breast exams and to get your yearly mammograms.

In addition to prevention and education, another key part of getting rid of breast cancer is treatment. While you may not be cut out to be a cancer researcher, you can donate your time and money to organizations fighting to eliminate breast cancer. Not only can you donate money directly to them, you can also buy products that support the cause as well. Just look for the pink ribbon on labels at your local grocery store.

While breast cancer can be devastating for many women and their families, this October you can start helping to prevent and treat breast cancer in your neighborhood and around the world.

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