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Despite progress made in diagnosing and treating breast cancer, an estimated 1,100 Virginia women will die this year of the disease.

As Breast Cancer Awareness Month kicks off, it’s important to remember the battle goes on, said Angela Lawrence, Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation.

“We focus on breast-cancer awareness in Virginia every day, every week and every month, but we also understand the need to have a time for all to come together and raise the awareness even more,” Lawrence said.

“Although the universal symbol is a pink ribbon, we all recognize that breast cancer is more than a pink ribbon. It is a disease with much hope and unfortunately at times much sorrow.”

Sooner or later, the disease has an affect on almost all of our lives:

Breast cancer is the leading cancer diagnosed among women in the United States and in Virginia; one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime.

An estimated 182,460 women across the country — and 4,680 in Virginia — will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008, according to the American Cancer Society.

In Virginia, 5,319 women died of breast cancer from 2000 to 2004.

The rate of breast cancer diagnoses is slightly higher than the state average in suburban counties such as Chesterfield, Henrico and Hanover. That’s probably because the residents in those areas are relatively affluent and have better health insurance, and screening and treatment options are more available and convenient, said Jim Martin of the Virginia Cancer Registry.

Statewide, 76.5 percent of women 40 years of age and older had a mammogram within the past two years, according to a 2006 state health behavior survey. That’s a modest increase from 2002, said Gail C. Jennings with the Virginia Department of Health.