December 4, 2007

Turning the Tide Against Breast Cancer

By Senator Lena C. Taylor

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  It’s a solemn occasion; a time to reflect on the impact of a devastating sickness.  Breast cancer is, by far, the deadliest disease amongst women in our society.  Almost 180,000 Americans will be diagnosed this year, alone, and, of these, over 40,000 will die of breast cancer.

One in seven women will develop breast cancer during their lives, meaning that almost all of us know somebody whose life has been irrevocably changed by the disease.  That experience is charged with emotion.  Breast Cancer Awareness Month is a challenge to take those emotions and use them to be proactive and fight back.  That means facing up to the realities of breast cancer and understanding what you can do to keep it from impacting your life.

The unfortunate reality is that all women are at risk.  The number one cause of breast cancer is aging, and that’s something none of us can do anything about.  What we can do, though, is limit other risk factors.  Statistics show that things like obesity, smoking, and alcoholism contribute to breast cancer.  Eliminating those problem behaviors is an important step toward reducing the chances of developing the disease.

Unfortunately, there will still be those that are affected despite taking those steps. The good news is that there is a possibility to limit the disease’s impact and to catch it early.  All women need to conduct monthly self-exams and all women over 40 need to have a mammogram once a year.  It’s not that much work, and by catching the disease in its early stages a person can receive lifesaving treatment before it’s too late.

As a legislator, I’ve worked hard to reduce the impact of breast cancer in our communities.  Through my efforts on the Joint Finance Committee, I helped increase funding for the Wisconsin Well Woman Program by $125,000.  That money will pay for mammograms that might save women all around the state from breast cancer.  In voting for programs like SeniorCare and BadgerCare Plus, I’ve helped make treatment affordable for women who, otherwise, couldn’t receive it.

But the legislature can’t do it all.  The responsibility for really making progress in the fight against breast cancer lies with each of you.  So be conscious of the disease; really know how to spot it and know what to do to prevent it.  Most importantly, share what you know with your friends, family, and neighbors so that they can protect themselves, too.  Doing all this won’t end breast cancer, but it can help to turn the tide.  And that’s what Breast Cancer Awareness Month is all about.