Early detection is a key defense

Cancer is currently a disease with no cure, and affects thousands of people worldwide every day; however, breast cancer does not always mean an end.

"If you look around, there aren't that many people who haven't been affected by breast cancer," said Ahwatukee Foothills resident Kelley Bonowski.

According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, nearly 200,000 women and 1,700 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer every year and about 42,000 cases will be fatal.

Although these odds are not as favorable as they could be, with self-examination and new technologies, early detection is easier than ever and odds of survival are continually increasing.

Both women and men should educate themselves on the signs and symptoms of cancer for the earliest detection and the best chance of survival.

"Ideally, you want to catch breast cancer before you can even feel it," said Dr. Robert Wall, a radiologist specialist practicing in both the Phoenix-metro area and Yuma. He is also a part of the Woman's Imaging Center at the Chandler Regional Medical Center.

Ahwatukee Foothills no longer has an imaging center that can provide ultra sounds and mammograms, according to Wall, and all of the previous Ahwatukee patients now visit the Woman's Imaging Center in Chandler.

Wall noted that women should "self-examine" themselves starting as early as age 20, and to do it as frequently as once a month.

"You need to do a routine self examination because you will be able to feel a difference in your own breasts."

While self-examination is a very important step in early detection, Wall stressed that you should also have a routine mammogram, and or ultrasound, by age 35 if there is no breast cancer in your family history and by age 30 if there is a history.

"Mammograms are important, but aren't as effective when you are older, you need to be doing both mammograms and ultra sounds every one to two years between ages 40 to 49."

Along with the routine ways of detection, there are a few new technologies emerging that are geared toward even earlier detection and three-dimensional imaging.

Three-dimensional mammography and thomosyntheseis are two of the latest technologies available to patients in the fight against breast cancer. They both offer doctors a more detailed view of breast tissue in order to catch abnormal cells even sooner.

While having a great doctor and state-of-the-art technology will increase chances of survival, it is also important to have a support group and become involved in the fight against breast cancer.

Bonowski is an avid participant in the Susan G. Komen Race and Walk for the Cure, which takes place annually in the Valley. She has participated in these fundraising events for the past five years.

Bonowski became involved with the foundation when her mother was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer.

"She lives in Indiana and I am here, and I couldn't be there with her, so doing this made me feel empowered over a disease that makes you feel powerless," Bonowski said. "I have raised over $15,000 and the best part is that money stays locally in Arizona to support research, which is huge."

Beverly Kruse, executive director for the Susan G. Komen Phoenix affiliation, says the foundation's main purpose it to empower people through education of breast cancer and that one day they hope to achieve a world without breast cancer.

"Of the money that we raise through events like our signature fundraising event, 75 percent stays here, we invest in education and outreach programs that aim to increase the use of mammography screenings and overall breast self-awareness," Kruse said. "We fund local community grants to agencies in the Valley to provide life-saving education, screening and treatment services, and ensure our survivors continue to get the support they need for quality of life."

In 2010, the foundation funded more than $1.8 million to 19 local agencies and, since its beginnings in 1993, has funded over $16 million in local community grants.

Along with providing money towards research, the Susan G. Komen foundation serves as a support system to anyone who has breast cancer or knows someone going through it.

"A network of friends and family to support someone who has been diagnosed with breast cancer is critical to ensuring the patient stays in the best frame of mind as they begin treatment for this disease," Kruse said. "We say you are a survivor from the moment of diagnosis, and our co-survivors are the friends and family who help to support their loved ones through this time."

For more information on the Susan G. Komen Foundation and ways you can join the effort in the fight against breast cancer, visit www.komenphoenix.org.

• Haley Buntrock is interning this semester for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. She is a sophomore at Arizona State University.

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