October is the month devoted to breast cancer awareness and action. Everyone has seen the pink ribbons, the pink appliances, and other ways to â€œthink pinkâ€. What many people fail to realize is that breast cancer is not just a disease that women get. Men can get it, too.
While in the past, military personnel have had a lower risk of the disease overall, lately there are some alarming statistics about members of the military and the increased risk of breast cancer in both sexes. Young, female service-members are now estimated to be 20% to 40% more likely to get it than the general population.
Dr. Richard Clapp, a top cancer expert at Boston University, told the Marine Corps Times that there are a number of reasons why the statistics have jumped over the years. He cited an increased use of birth control and exposure to dangerous chemicals as two of the reasons for the increase.
For example, there has been an ongoing study of water contamination at Camp LeJeune, North Carolina from 1957 to 1987. Numerous toxins were dumped in the area and reached the ground water which was close to the surface.Â There have been numerous reports of military personnel and their families suffering medical conditions that are linked to those toxins, including breast cancer in both men and women.
This concerns me personally because I lived on base at Camp LeJeune in the early 1980s. I was diagnosed in 2009 with pre-cancerous tumors on my thyroid which was promptly removed. Was my illness associated with the toxic chemicals in the water? I donâ€™t know â€“ and that leaves me wondering if I have breast cancer to worry about in the future.
Itâ€™s interesting to note that more than 80 men who were exposed to the contaminated water were diagnosed with breast cancer. It is rare in men and almost never seen in men under the age of 70. The number of men diagnosed continues to rise as time goes on â€“ some as young as 35.
The Marine Corps Times also reported that while about 800 women have been wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan, roughly the same number have been diagnosed with breast cancer. When female service members were evacuated from combat zones, breast cancer was the most likely cause. Not wounds from enemy fire, not from helicopter accidents or jeeps turning over â€“ not even from falling and breaking a leg during a game of softball. Breast cancer is an enemy that does not respect anyone, no matter who you are.
Itâ€™s important that service members are especially diligent about giving themselves breast exams regularly â€“ once a month is recommended. Donâ€™t put off your yearly checkups and talk to your doctor about getting mammograms even if you are younger than the usual age for them. It is important to make sure that you see doctors that are experienced in identifying and treating illnesses related to toxin exposure as well.
Donâ€™t take chances with your health. If you find an odd lump, let your doctor know immediately. Much better to be safe than dead.
source: Marine Corps Times
photo credit: Expert Infantry