Spreading Breast Cancer Awareness Beyond October

Lynchburg, VA- Everyone from NFL players to firefighters are sporting pink in honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Those in the health profession also want this color to motivate people to take control of their health.

Doctors say timing and prevention is crucial to surviving breast cancer. Len, it can mean the difference in your survival. ABC 13 News' Lauren Compton shared her own family history of cancer and how she is using that information to fight back against breast cancer.

Pink campaigns have made breast cancer a trendy and cute cause. But for many women the color pink is a reminder of when cancer was more than just a catchy cause but a threat.

"A lot of times when women hear the word cancer usually they don't hear anything else," said Kara Lamb, an oncology breast navigation nurse for Centra.

When Lauren Compton heard the word cancer, it was coming from her best friend, confidant and mother. Then breast cancer came for one of her biggest cheerleaders: her aunt. It's painful history but doctors say knowing your family history can be valuable.

"That will determine whether or not you start screening earlier or whether you need a more advanced type of screening," said Dr. Karl Biesemier, director of Centra Comprehensive Breast Cancer Program.

Lauren Compton's family history will mean she will start mammograms at 30 instead of the recommended 40 years of age. There has been a lot of mixed press about mammograms, but doctors still say they not only catch cancer early, but can increase your chances of survival.

"Patients that have their tumor detected by mammography have a much lower rate of recurrence, and of dying than women who don't find their tumor until it's palpable or they can feel it," said Dr. Biesemier.

If you are not of mammogram age, experts say there's power in the hands. Self-screening is how Lauren's mother first detected the lump in her breast. Lauren's mother Mignon Compton is now a five-year survivor. Lauren's aunt however lost her battle when the cancer spread to her lungs. It is because of women like her, experts say you should know your risks--and make sure other women know theirs.

"I think it's important for women to talk about it. Hold each other accountable ask your friends, mom, your siblings, 'Hey have you gotten your annual mammogram yet?" said Lamb.

The experts at Centra say don't let cost be the reason you delay getting screened. They have assistance programs, and support groups to help you.

Click here for information on Centra's cancer resources.