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Reese Witherspoon: 'Anyone is susceptible' to breast cancer

  • Story Highlights
  • "Every three minutes" statistic made Witherspoon feel "vulnerable" and "scared"
  • Oscar-winning actress: Young women are not exempt from the disease
  • Witherspoon emphasizes importance of early detection and regular screenings
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By Reese Witherspoon
Special to CNN
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Editor's Note: Reese Witherspoon, the Academy Award-winning actress, is honorary chairman of the Avon Foundation and is employed by Avon Products as its global ambassador.

CNN's Larry King joins Witherspoon for the Avon walk in Washington, in May 2008.

Reese Witherspoon says she wants to banish the myth that young women are not at risk for breast cancer.

(CNN) -- Every three minutes in the United States, a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer.

As a woman, a mother, and a daughter, I find that statistic terrifying. I was never naïve about breast cancer, but hearing this statistic put it all into perspective.

Women close to me have battled the disease and are now soldiers in the greater fight against it. But the moment I heard "every three minutes," I felt vulnerable and scared as I realized that anyone is susceptible.

The only way for me to ease my fears was to take action. I needed to educate myself and others on this disease. As the Honorary Chair for the Avon Foundation, I had resources at my fingertips. I had access to an entire organization that is dedicated to giving back to women and educating people. So I started asking, "What do I need to know?"

It was through that curiosity that I found out the most important fact in breast cancer: Early detection saves lives.

According to the Avon Foundation Breast Cancer Crusade, there is a 97 percent five-year survival rate when breast cancer is caught before it spreads to other parts of the body. When breast cancer first develops, there are usually no symptoms, which is why women need to perform self-exams regularly and contact their doctor upon noticing even the smallest change.

Of course talking about breast cancer and breast health is a personal thing. I too am a private person but encourage all women to break through their reservations and talk to their doctors and physicians.

We must also banish the myth that young women are not at risk for breast cancer. At the Avon Walk in Washington, I met young survivors who were diagnosed in their 20s, an age when most women are graduating from college and just starting their lives as full adults. Video Watch Reese and Larry at the Avon Walk »

Women in their 20s and 30s should have a clinical breast exam by a health professional at least once every three years and women 40 and older should have an exam every year.

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I am passionate about fighting this devastating disease. I fight for my mother, myself, my children and future generations of women, so one day we will not have to be afraid of breast cancer. I began my fight by learning important first steps in breast cancer detection, and will not end my fight until every woman can stand together saying we are breast cancer free.

More than anything else, I have faith -- faith we will find a cure. I saw this commitment in the faces of the women in Washington -- in the faces of the women walking and the women and men who stood on the sidelines encouraging the 3,500 participants to the finish line. I was cheering right along with them, screaming for action to find a cure.

Avon's next walk will take place in New York City on October 4 and 5.

All About Breast CancerReese Witherspoon

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