While October’s observance of Breast Cancer Awareness Month soon will come to a close, women across Tennessee are being reminded of the importance of early detection every day of the year. Linda Reddick, founder of the Memphis-based nonprofit Seeds 2 Life, said breast cancer continues to take too many lives, although progress has been made over the years through more awareness and early diagnosis. “The sooner you catch it, the sooner the treatment can present itself,” she said. “The best thing we always tell our ladies is to do self-breast exams. If you’re not sure how to do a self-breast exam, we would teach them or refer them to doctors.” It’s estimated that nearly 5,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year in Tennessee and more than 900 will die from the disease. Despite the life-saving benefits, many women still aren’t performing self-exams or getting in for mammograms on a regular basis. Reddick said they often include women with disabilities or other chronic health conditions, such as a woman with multiple sclerosis whom she met at a recent health fair. “She’s so bogged down with her MS, she never thought about a self-breast exam or a mammogram,” Reddick said. “And here she was 40 years old, be turning 41 soon, and that was not on her radar because of her MS had just overtaken her life.” Another factor in the lower rates of screenings is that women with disabilities or other chronic health conditions are also more likely than the general population to be in poverty. “We’re in the Shelby County area and we deal with a lot of low-income, no-income, uninsured and under-insured women,” she said, “and if they don’t have the funds to go and get these services, they’re not going.” For eligible women, a number of health-care providers across the state do offer free mammograms and other testing through the Tennessee Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program. More information is online at seeds2life.org. Free mammogram information is at 1-877-96WOMEN or health.state.tn.us. Breast cancer information is at cancer.org. Disease data is at cdc.gov.