Those pink ribbons calling attention to breast cancer are everywhere ... on coffee cups ... on lapel pins ... on football players' helmets. The pink ribbon has become a universal symbol for the fight against breast cancer.

The ribbons are intended to remind women to get regular screenings to catch the disease early.

The statistics over the years have represented a great deal of suffering. But that is changing. There is good news as we observe Breast Cancer Awareness month in October.

Death rates for breast cancer have steadily decreased in women since 1989, with larger decreases in younger women, according to the American Cancer Society.

Since 2005, rates have decreased 3 percent per year in women younger than 50 and 2 percent annually in women 50 and older.

That represents progress in earlier detection, improved treatment, and, possibly, decreased incidence as a result of declining use of hormone therapy.

In a new development, one of the latest advances, a drug from Roche, is the first medicine approved to treat breast cancer before surgery, offering an earlier approach against one of the deadliest forms of the disease, the Associated Press reported last week.

The Food and Drug Administration has approved Perjeta for women with a form of early-stage breast cancer who face a high risk of the cancer spreading to other parts of the body.

As those groundbreaking efforts continue, however, the simplest way to join in the fight against breast cancer is making sure you and your loved ones stay on guard, focused on early detection. When the cancer is found in its localized stage, the odds of living five years after diagnosis are nearly 100 percent.

Know the risk factors.

Get regular screenings, including self-exams and mammograms according to age or risk factors.

Pay attention to diet and exercise.

And, please, don't ignore symptoms out of fear. There is more help out there than many of us realize.