October means get screened

Halen Doughty

It's October, which can only mean two things - that Halloween is just around the corner and everything everywhere is decked out in pink ribbons for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. As the granddaughter of two breast cancer survivors, that means something a little different to me.

Both of my grandmothers were diagnosed with breast cancer long before I was born. My mom's mom passed away after the cancer returned 13 years later and metastasized in other parts of her body. I am blessed to still have my dad's mom with us today. Although I wasn't old enough to understand what cancer was at the time my Meemaw passed, it continues to shape my life now in adulthood.

For many, Breast Cancer Awareness Month is about wearing lots of pink and giving an extra dollar at the check out to support one cause or another. Professional football teams will don their pink socks, and offices will decorate their halls with massive bows. Some people will run a 5k, others will make a charitable contribution, and more will change their Facebook profile picture to something pink. But for me, October is about screening. It's the time when I take my health into my own hands and get screened for breast cancer.

Raising awareness and supporting research initiatives are important, but in my opinion preventative care needs more attention. I'm not hating on raising awareness at all. Some wonderful organizations raise a lot of money to continue to help people, which is great, but there is more we can do.

As someone with a family history of multiple cancers, I'm no stranger to screenings even at my young age, but the same cannot be said for some. Early detection is key to the survival of many diagnosed with cancer. Some will be diagnosed with no family history and no physical symptoms. If it weren't for screenings, many may not find it until it's too late.

I hope this year that as many people that donate to research will also get screened themselves or help someone else get their screening. It's quick and easy, and at many awareness events this month, it will also be free. Some even offer transportation for those unable to make it to the doctor's office.

Prevention and early detection are just as important as other aspects of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. That's the whole point of raising awareness, right? Surely by now everyone knows that breast cancer exists, but what they may not know are the symptoms and risk factors. Getting screened is a great opportunity to meet with your doctor and discuss them.

Finally, keep in mind that for so many, breast cancer is not an issue reserved for October. It's a real struggle with real pain and real loss for real people. That's why you won't often find me wearing pink throughout the month. But you will find two breast cancer ribbons tattooed on the back of my neck - a reminder of my grandmothers' strength and perseverance and a testament to their struggle. That's why I get screened, to do what I can to honor their fight and to encourage others to do the same.

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