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Early detection is best weapon

It would be safe to say that all of us have been affected by cancer at some point in our lives.

Whether the disease has affected a family member or friend, we have all been exposed to the trauma that accompanies the dreaded diagnosis and ultimate treatment options.

With October designated National Breast Cancer Awareness month, pink ribbons have been high profile recently in the fight against the illness which packs the punch of being the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women in our state.

The disease seems to know and respect no boundaries.

One out of eight can expect to be diagnosed during their lifetime, with approximately 470 women projected to be diagnosed alone this year.

Statistics also reveal that older women are more likely to develop the disease, with rates lower in women younger than 40 and the highest in women older than 70.

The good news is that if detected early enough, breast cancer cure rates are excellent. More than 95 percent of women whose breast cancer is caught in its earliest stages are more likely to be healthy and disease-free five years after their diagnosis and treatment.

That's why preventative care on a regular basis is so important, including performing monthly breast self-examinations, getting regular clinical examinations and following the American Cancer Society's guidelines for scheduling regular screening mammogram, which are recommended every three years starting at the age of 20, and yearly after the age of 40.

For those reluctant to schedule regular exams because of financial restraint there is a great program worth checking into. Women between the ages of 40 and 64 may be eligible for - "Women's Way," North Dakota's Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program. For more information about the program, call the toll free number at 1-800-44 WOMEN, which will connect you with the local coordinator in your area.