Breast Cancer Awareness Month, marked every October with the sight of pink, is an important annual reminder that about one in eight women will be affected by the disease over the course of their lifetime.
That's one in eight wives, daughters, best friends and family members.
While breast cancer is most often found in women who are age 50 and older, the disease can also affect younger women. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that about 11 percent of all new cases of breast cancer in the United States are found in women under the age of 45.
While we spread awareness this month, it's only a once-a-year reminder.
Yet for the millions living with breast cancer, the disease isn't limited to October. It's a 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week, 365-days-a-year battle that doesn't take vacations or holidays.
It's important that we take each October to recognize the victims, the survivors and their loved ones. But it's even more essential that we don't limit our awareness of breast cancer to one month of the calendar year.
Women should be familiar with the signs and symptoms of breast cancer and report any changes in their breasts to their health care provider right away. The American College of Radiology recommends that women begin annual mammogram screenings starting at age 40 --- even if they have no symptoms or family history of breast cancer.
And while screenings are important, so are self checks.
Nola Newman is alive today because of early detection of breast cancer. She said she found a lump during a routine self-exam her ob-gyn had taught her. It was August 1987 and she was just 36 years old.
Paula Hollon, a breast cancer survivor, adds, "It's a lot about early diagnosis. Even with more aggressive treatment, you can't turn back the clock. Get your mammograms and your ovarian screening. Prevention is our best friend."
So as we think pink this October, remember to be aware every other month of the year. Remind your loved ones about annual screenings, self checks and what's at stake.
And for those currently battling breast cancer, stay positive and hopeful.
"You gotta find a way to fight back," Newman said.