Op-Ed: Finishing the fight against breast cancer

Alvaro Carrasca l, M.D., M.P.H. Senior Vice President, Cancer Control

One hundred years ago, the American Cancer Society began the fight of a lifetime – the fight against cancer. As a global grassroots force of more than three million volunteers and the biggest private, not-for-profit investor in cancer research, we’ve contributed to a 20 percent decline in overall cancer death rates in the US since the early 1990s. That means we’ve helped save nearly 1.2 million lives during that time.

The progress we’ve made is remarkable, but there is more work to be done.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a time when we focus our awareness efforts on the fight to end the most frequently diagnosed non-skin cancer in women and the second leading cause of cancer deaths in women. Breast cancer will steal the lives of 39,620 women across the United States this year. In Queens alone, we expect 1,418 women to be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013 and 300 to die of this disease. This is why it is especially important for Queens residents to lace up their sneakers and walk together at Making Strides Against Breast Cancer on October 20.

Making Strides is the largest network of breast cancer awareness events in the nation, uniting nearly 300 communities to finish the fight. Our walkers turn awareness into action, raising more than $68 million nationwide for the American Cancer Society last year – one dollar at a time – to save lives from breast cancer.

So where does that money go? First- research. The American Cancer Society invests more in breast cancer research than any other cancer and we’ve played a role in nearly every major breast cancer research breakthrough in recent history. The Society established mammography as the standard to find breast cancer early and discovered lifesaving treatments like Herceptin and Tamoxifen. Thanks in part to our work, the death rate from breast cancer has dropped 33% since 1989 and continuous groundbreaking breast cancer research projects are underway at institutions across New York City. We will continue our work until we end the disease.

But we also support the women of Queens who need help now. One in every two women newly diagnosed with breast cancer reaches out to us for help. This is a huge obligation for one organization to meet. The Society provides emotional support programs like Reach To Recovery, free wigs and assistance with treatment-related physical side effects, free lodging when the treatment facility is far from home, an extensive network of online support and information, and much more.

This research and these programs are possible because of the funds raised through Making Strides. To sign up for the local walk in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park on October 20, visit MakingStridesWalk.org. Connect with us on Facebook at facebook.com/Strides and on Twitter at @MakingStrides.

And remember: if you are 40 or older, get your yearly mammogram. The five-year survival rate for breast cancer is 98 percent among individuals whose cancer has not spread beyond the breast at the time of diagnosis and mammography is the best way to catch breast cancer early. If you are interested in more information or in need of support, please call us at 1-800-227-2345.