I'm sure by now that you're wondering whether something seriously went wrong when the Mountain Home News went to press on Tuesday. After all, this newspaper tends to remain fairly predictable in terms of how it looks every week.
However, the pink motif that we went with this week was intentional. It was one way that this newspaper is taking a stand against one of the most dreaded diseases in this country, which is expected to strike more than 230,000 people by the end of this year.
In an effort to reach out to the Mountain Home community, this newspaper has dedicated an entire page of this week's edition to breast cancer awareness. Our hope is that people will take this information to heart as part of an ongoing international effort to fight and eventually eliminate this dreaded disease.
Humanity has taken tremendous steps forward in terms of diagnosing people with breast cancer in addition to helping destroy it. If you stop and think about it, anyone with a cancer diagnosis 50 years ago knew it meant they had no hope and that their days were numbered.
The disease was going to kill them. It was only a matter of how much time they had left.
Back then, treatment options were often very limited because we lacked the technology needed to detect the virus in its early stages. Today, the odds are much better with a 70 percent chance of survival.
A lot of those improved odds are linked to significant increases in mammography screening, which is why so many cases were detected when these tests first became readily available in the 1980s and 1990s.
According to information from the American Cancer Society, those screening tests have greatly helped women, especially those ages 50 and up where the disease was more common.
Over the last 15 years, these tests have caused the number of new cases to stabilize among women of all ages, the cancer society reported. This year, the American Cancer Society predicts that this nation will see nearly 300,000 new cases among all Americans and that more than 40,000 people will die from the disease.
Excluding cancers of the skin, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in this country and account for 29 percent of newly diagnosed forms of cancer. In terms of how many it kills each year, breast cancer is second only to lung cancer in terms of cancer-related deaths in women, the cancer society reported.
But out of these grim statistics there is some optimistic news to report. There are currently more than 3.1 million women in America with a history of breast cancer that are still with us. Some of these women remain cancer-free while others still have evidence of cancer and are continuing to undergo treatment.
As I have mentioned before when I've discussed this topic, cancer plays no favorites and doesn't care who you are, how much money you make and how old you might be. It's afflicted people like former Good Morning America co-host Joan Lunden, who had it detected early during her annual mammogram in June 2014.
Fourteen months later, actress Shannen Doherty confirmed that she was also being treated for breast cancer. In her case, however, there were reports that it was detected late due to issues with her health care coverage, and her prognosis seemed less-than-optimistic.
Here's something else for you to consider. While the name might indicate otherwise, breast cancer isn't limited to affecting only women.
While the percentage of cases is significantly lower, the disease also affects men. Among the well-known male survivors of the disease is Peter Criss, the former drummer for the heavy metal band KISS. In 2007, he first noticed a lump in his left breast, which subsequent tests confirmed that it was cancerous.
In a subsequent interview two years later, he considered himself "the luckiest man on the planet." He was now a cancer survivor.
Other male breast cancer patients were not so fortunate. Famed television announcer Robert Ray Roddy, whose name you might remember from the classic game show The Price Is Right, lost his battle against the disease in 2003 two years after he was diagnosed with colon cancer, which had spread throughout his body.
But for every person we lose to this type of disease, I take some comfort in knowing many others remain survivors. It's their stories we should turn to whenever we feel that all hope is lost, because we know that's not necessarily the case.
I can only hope some day that we will finally find a cure for breast disease in addition to all forms of cancer. It's my sincere hope that people will no longer have to endure the pain of having to fight cancer and that their families no longer have to deal with the different type of pain they also carry.
For those unsure whether they need to get a mammogram, let me offer some words of advice I recently learned from someone with far more experience dealing with cancer -- Take a mom, take a friend, take a sister, take a buddy. Whatever you do, just go. Never say "no."
-- Brian S. Orban