October Is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month
October is a busy month in the health care community, as many providers and cancer survivors celebrate National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in women, after skin cancer, and it comprises almost one-third of all cancers that are diagnosed.
The bad news is that in 2011 an estimated 230,480 women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer, and 39,520 women are expected to die from the disease. It is the second-leading cause of death for American women.*
Now for some good news. Breast cancer survival rates are continuing to improve, especially when the cancer is detected early. According to the American Cancer Society's latest statistics, approximately 2.6 million women living in the U.S. have a history of breast cancer. Most of them were cancer-free, while some still had the disease and may have been undergoing treatment. Statistics are demonstrating that breast cancer is becoming more of a chronic, manageable disease, rather than the death sentence it once was.
The key is early detection. Early detection, along with exciting new therapies and treatment protocols, are playing critical roles in beating breast cancer in its early stages.
Unfortunately in today's challenging economic times, many women can't afford health insurance and are skipping critical health screenings. In fact, statistics show poor women are now at a greater risk for breast cancer death because of reduced access to screening and better treatments.
Here in our rural area, where pockets of poverty exist, this is a very real concern. Luckily there are resources to help. Inland Imaging, a major provider of mammograms in our region, is perhaps the best starting point for those in financial need. Women can call Inland's Customer Service Department at 509-363-7799 and ask to talk to someone about getting financial assistance to help cover the cost of a mammogram.. Inland Imaging works with many other local organizations and foundations to help women who cannot afford a mammogram. Depending on the need, the mammogram can either be free or billed at a reduced rate.
This month, to celebrate Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Inland Imaging is providing 75 free mammograms to those in need.
The American Cancer Society recommends women 40 and older have a mammogram and clinical breast exam every year, and that younger women have clinical breast exams periodically as well. Women should also do a breast self-exam at least once a month to check for changes in breast tissue. Have your doctor show you the proper way to do the exam.
Annual mammograms are especially important for women with a family history of breast cancer. Women who have a grandmother, mother, sister, or daughter who has been diagnosed with breast cancer have a higher disease risk. These women should have a baseline mammogram at least five years before the age that breast cancer was found in any close relatives, or starting at age 35.
What can women do to help reduce the risk of breast cancer? There are some simple lifestyle changes that can dramatically reduce the risk of developing breast cancer.
• Eat a healthy, low fat diet with lots of fruits and vegetables.
• Get regular physical exercise. There are many studies showing that as little as four hours of exercise a week greatly reduces the chance of getting the disease. And the exercise can be as simple as walking. Exercise pumps up the immune system and lowers estrogen levels, which have been linked to increased breast cancer risk.
• Reduce alcohol consumption. Even one or two drinks a day can significantly increase your risk.
• And perhaps most important of all…stop smoking!!
Women need to be proactive when it comes to their health and breast cancer, and do all they can to stop putting themselves at risk. Visit your doctor regularly. Get annual mammograms. Take care of yourself…it's the least you can do for you and your loved ones.
*All facts and statistics quoted are from the new report just issued by the American Cancer Society, “Breast Cancer Facts & Figures 2011-2012,” available at http://www.cancer.org .