October 24, 2008

Overcoming Fear to Win the Battle Against Breast Cancer

By Mayte Prida

There are few illnesses that we fear more than cancer. From diagnosis to recovery, cancer brings to mind frightening thoughts of hair loss, surgery and – yes – even death. But fear can be as dangerous as cancer, preventing us from getting the potentially life-saving early screening tests we need because we’d rather live in ignorance than face a cancer diagnosis. In fact, we each need the exact opposite of fear. We need hope.

For someone facing breast cancer, as I have, hope is a lifeline to a better tomorrow, a breakthrough treatment, a cure. Hope is for everyone facing cancer – patients, their friends and families, survivors. As we observe breast cancer awareness month this October, let hope also mean that one day, no woman will have to face this terrible disease with a poor prognosis for recovery.

In the Hispanic community, the hope to win the fight against breast cancer is particularly profound. Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer and the leading cause of cancer death among women in our community, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. That’s why it’s so critical that women do monthly self-examinations and get regular mammograms as directed by their physicians. Mammograms – an x-ray picture of the breast – are the best way to find out if you have breast cancer because they can show cancer when it’s too small for you or your doctor to feel. All women starting at age 40 should get a mammogram every one to two years, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Talk to your doctor if your mother or sister had breast cancer, as you may need to start getting mammograms earlier. Early detection can make a life or death difference.

Overcoming fear with hope is particularly critical to breast cancer survivors. Today, there are 2.5 million breast cancer survivors in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society. I am lucky to be one of them. As a survivor, I live with the knowledge that one day the cancer could come back. But I am focused on truly living life to the fullest. The Susan G. Komen Foundation says getting back to all the things you used to do – even if it takes some time — will help you feel better. I can tell you that keeping up with a healthy lifestyle that includes good diet and exercise habits, as well as continued health screenings, can help your mind and body.

More than ever before, medicines also have the power to provide hope to cancer patients.

A recent survey by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) revealed 750 medicines in development to treat cancer, including 90 for breast cancer. One medicine in the pipeline to treat breast cancer may help make chemotherapy more effective by reducing the amount of a type of protein in cancer cells.

Patients who need help accessing their prescription medicines for breast cancer and other conditions can turn to the Partnership for Prescription Assistance. Since its launch in April 2005, the Partnership for Prescription Assistance has helped connect more than 5 million patients in need to programs that provide either free or nearly free medicines. For more information, patients can call 1-888-4PPA-NOW or visit www.pparx.org.

This month, as we remember those who have won and lost the battle against breast cancer, let us rise above fear to find the hope for a new treatment that helps save a life, ushering in a cure to cancer forever.

 Mayte Prida, a nationally recognized television personality, producer and author, is a national spokeswoman for the Partnership for Prescription Assistance (PPA), a patient assistance program clearinghouse launched in April 2005 by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

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