Despite the ongoing improvements that have been made to reduce the harmfulness of breast cancer, it remains the second-leading cancer death in women. This year, the American Cancer Society estimates that nearly 40,000 women will die of breast cancer.
That is not to suggest that no progress has been made in this fight, however. Up until the year 2000, breast cancer incidence rates had been rising for more than two decades. Since 2000, the numbers have been improving, thanks to things like research, awareness and charity. Statistics compiled by the American Cancer Society indicate that death rates from breast cancer have been steadily declining since 1989.
The pain of losing a loved one is not easy to stomach and does not go away quickly. That is true for any situation, but this one in particular has affected my family. My sister Melisa was diagnosed with breast cancer 20 years ago. The family was by her side through her entire process and we tried to help in every way we could, but sadly she died at the age of 30 years old. She left behind her husband and twin three-year-old daughters. She also left a loving mother and father, as well as three brothers and a younger sister who idolized her every move.
The word “awareness” is used so often that it can be easy to forget the very meaning of the word. To me, raising awareness does not require a public service announcement or TV commercial. Those things certainly help, but for individuals, raising awareness can be as easy as reminding a loved one of the importance of getting checked. As with most cancers and illnesses, early detection is one of the best ways to save lives. To a person who feels healthy, hearing the statistics and effects of breast cancer can be easy to ignore.
But after experiencing the death of my sister, I continue to hope that fewer and fewer families have to be affected by such a loss. Getting checked early and often will not save the life of every cancer survivor, but it will go a long way in helping mothers, sisters and friends live long, healthy lives.