It’s October, which means the nation will be decorated with pink ribbons, NFL players will likely sport some pink shoes in upcoming games and a lot of talk will focus on the importance of breast cancer awareness.
For me, while October might by pretty in pink, it makes me think about women’s health overall. You see, breast cancer might get the most marketing and attention, but there are so many conditions and issues women face each year that all deserve a lot more discussion.
First, let’s talk about heart health. Heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, continues to be the leading cause of death for women, killing more than 300,000 per year, equating to about one in every five deaths among women.
According to the CDC, one in every 16 women aged 20 or over has a coronary heart disease.
There is a need to stay on top of heart health for women. For women with symptoms, it’s time to stop delaying that annual checkup with a cardiologist. Some of those symptoms include sharp chest pain, pain the neck, jaw and throat and consistent pain in the upper abdomen or back.
Women, especially moms, have a tendency to manage and take care of everyone around them. That means they are often ignoring their own alarming symptoms, avoiding mental health concerns or skipping the annual checkups because they say they are too busy.
COVID did not help the problem. Doctors with UCHealth and other medical organization said that in 2020 and 2021 many women skipped annual screenings, which turned into some being diagnosed with later-stage cancers once they got an alarming symptom or lump checked.
It is vital to keep doing annual screenings — mammograms, pap smears and talking to a doctor annually.
As I have said in this space before —I have an adopted daughter due in part to ignoring symptoms. My daughter’s biological mom had a stomach and side pain that she ignored over two years. When she was diagnosed with stomach cancer, which is a very treatable cancer, it was too late. Within months of her diagnosis, she died.
When it comes to breast cancer, ignoring symptoms at all ages is not recommended. Breast cancer is not just something older women can get. This disease can be detected at all age levels.
As a general rule of thumb, I schedule my annual mammogram the first week in October each year. They are not comfortable. They are not fun. I do not ever look forward to them. I am always anxious in the week leading up to getting the results. However, I do not skip them.
According to the CDC, each year more than 260,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer. Like most cancers, an early diagnosis has the best chance of survival.
In my family, my grandmother died at 50 of a heart attack. My aunt died at age 50 of breast cancer. The warning signs are already there for me.
Like many moms and career women, a lot of people rely on me to manage my household and office. To do that, I do my best to stay on top of my health through preventative methods. Something we should all do.
Thelma Grimes is the south metro editor for Colorado Community Media.