Yet despite the heavy toll that breast cancer claims, there is little public consciousness about the threat that it poses, or the simple steps that women can take in terms of detection and prevention.
As I note in the column below, this month is International Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and a large event is scheduled to take place in Raanana, Israel, on October 16th to alert the Israeli public and inspire more women to get themselves tested.
A March for the Living
by Michael Freund
There is a dangerous and proficient killer on the loose, roaming across Israel and preying on the innocent.
With little regard for social, economic or cultural backgrounds, this faceless predator has claimed an astonishing number of victims, compiling a tally that would be the envy of any major terrorist group.
Yet unlike the struggle against our enemies, this is one war where each of us can actually do something to turn the tide against a daunting foe.
It is the battle against breast cancer, and the time to take action is now.
Today, October 1, marks the start of International Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Around the world, events will be held over the next few weeks to alert the public to the danger posed by this dreadful disease.
From the US to the Ukraine, organizers are gearing up to spread the word in an effort to promote early detection and prevention and cut the risks associated with breast cancer, which strikes both men and women with ruthless abandon.
Sure, no one really likes to contemplate or talk about disease. It is one of those terrifying things that we occasionally hear about but then delude ourselves into thinking that it cannot possibly strike close to home.
But the data suggests otherwise.
"According to the latest available statistics, breast cancer strikes one in eight Israeli women," Prof. Ben Corn, MD, who is Chairman of Radiation Oncology at the Tel Aviv Medical Center, told me.
He noted that, "in more than a third of the cases, the disease has spread beyond the breast by the time it is detected." As a result, a quarter of those hit by the disease die within two years of its discovery.
All told, about 4,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer in Israel each year. That is an average of more than 10 per day, or about one every two hours! These numbers are simply startling.
NEXT TIME you are in synagogue or at the movie theater, just look around and consider this: the odds are that one out of every eight ladies in the room will at some point in their lives hear the devastating diagnosis that will wreak havoc on them and their families.
Nonetheless, despite the fact that prominent public figures such as former Education Minister Yuli Tamir and popular singer Sharon Haziz have been diagnosed with breast cancer, there is still very little public consciousness about it here in Israel.
Indeed, fewer than half of Israeli women over the age of 50 reportedly get a mammogram, leaving them dangerously exposed to the possibility of uncovering the disease only once it is too late.
And while just one in three breast lumps actually turns out to be malignant, it takes a biopsy to find that out.
That is what makes early detection so crucial. There is as yet no cure, so catching the cancer before it spreads, and getting proper treatment, still offers women the best chance of survival.
Moreover, there are also a range of preemptive actions that women can take, from adopting a healthier and more active lifestyle to reducing alcohol consumption to consulting with your physician, all of which can greatly reduce the risk of contracting this potentially fatal disease.
In other words, breast cancer can be contained or even overcome, but only if people wake up and do something about it.
THANKFULLY, A group of women in the Sharon region have decided to do just that. Under the slogan, "Awareness can save your life", a 4-kilometer Breast Cancer Awareness Walk, followed by a "happening" for the entire family, is slated to take place on Friday morning, October 16, at 9:15 am sharp in Park Ra'anana.
The goal is to rouse people to action, educate the public and inspire women to get themselves tested.
The march is taking place under the auspices of the non-profit Tishkofet organization, which assists people and their families throughout the country in coping with terminal illnesses, in cooperation with the Ra'anana municipality, the Maccabi and Clalit Health Funds and Meir and Tel Hashomer hospitals.
It will be a march for the living, a siren call to thousands of Israelis to start taking the threat of breast cancer seriously.
The walk is in memory of two very special women - Mindy Greenberg and Diane Taragin - both of whom lived in Ra'anana and put up a valiant fight against the disease.
No memorial could be more fitting than a large event which will save people's lives by motivating them to get tested.
It is therefore crucial that each and every one of us make an effort to be there and show our support. So go online to Tishkofet's website at www.tishkofet.co.il and register to take part. All proceeds from the event will go towards assisting breast cancer patients and their families.
Like many of you, I too was unaware of how widespread breast cancer is, or of the simple steps that can be taken to detect it, such as self-exams, mammograms and MRIs (for those at higher risk). This information can make an enormous difference in people's lives.
Our sages tell us in the Tosefta (Shabbat 9, 22) that "Nothing supersedes the saving of life." So it is incumbent upon each of us to overcome whatever hesitation or reluctance we might have to confront the issue of disease, and arm ourselves with all the facts.
Speak to your wife, your daughter, your sister or your mother-in-law, and tell them - please! - to go get tested. Follow up by speaking with your doctor about what you can do to change your lifestyle or your eating habits and those of your family.
And on October 16, make sure to come out to Park Ra'anana and join the Breast Cancer Awareness Walk.