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Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Most Common Cancer for MT Women

October 7, 2010

MISSOULA, Mont. - The signature pink ribbons are hard to ignore across Montana, with October being designated National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in Montana, according to state statistics. Yet it's also one of the most treatable cancers, with a five-year survival rate of 90 percent if it's found before it spreads, according to American Cancer Society spokesman Lou Harvin. He says there is just one thing worse than hearing the words "you have cancer."

"And that is to hear someone say, 'Why didn't you come in earlier?' Because your cancer can grow to a much greater stage when it didn't have to in the first place."

The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends that women get an annual mammogram beginning at age 40. Low-cost or free mammograms are available for low-income women in Montana. Staying at a healthy body weight, quitting smoking and exercising also are known to reduce the risk, Harvin adds.

Harvin says he understands why it's difficult for many women to find the time to be proactive about their health, and ACS wants to change that.

"They do put themselves at the bottom of the list, but we want women to put themselves first, because in many homes, if the woman is not around, the entire household falls apart."

Breast cancer is the top cancer death cause for Montanans in the 40-55 age group.

Deb Courson, Public News Service - MT