(10/20/11) - October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The key to celebrating more birthdays – and employment anniversaries – is to stay well. Getting a yearly mammogram is the most important action women can take to find breast cancer early – before physical symptoms develop – when the disease is most treatable. When breast cancer is found early, the five-year survival rate is 98 percent.
McLeod Medical Center Dillon has the latest in breast imaging technology with state-of-the-art digital mammography. While standard film mammography creates an image directly on film, digital mammography takes an electronic image and stores it directly in a computer. The images captured by a digital system are extremely clear and detailed. Digital mammography allows a physician to see a spot as small as a grain of sand.
The McLeod Medical Center Dillon Radiology Department is a Best Chance Network partner. Celebrating 20 years of screening women and saving lives, the American Cancer Society's Best Chance Network offers free Breast Exams, Mammograms, Pelvic Exams and Pap Tests to women that have met eligibility guidelines.
This year, an estimated 230,480 women in the United States will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer. Excluding cancers of the skin, breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in women, and the second leading cause of cancer death. The best way we have today to find it early is to get a mammogram every year starting at age 40 and continuing for as long as you are in good health. In addition, there are steps you can take to help you stay well and reduce your risk of breast cancer, such as staying at a healthy weight, staying active, and limiting the amount of alcohol you drink to no more than one drink per day (no more than two drinks per day for men).
By following the American Cancer Society's breast cancer screening guidelines, women can take steps to stay well:
· Yearly mammograms should begin at age 40 and continue for as long as a woman is in good health.
· A breast exam should be part of a periodic health exam – about every three years for women in their 20s and 30s and every year for women age 40 and older.
· Women should know how their breasts normally look and feel and report any breast change to a health care professional right away. Breast self-exam is an option for women starting in their 20s.
The American Cancer Society also recommends that some women at high risk of breast cancer – because of family history, a genetic tendency, or certain other factors – be screened with MRI in addition to mammograms. They may also need to begin screening at a younger age. Women should talk with their doctor about their history and whether they should have an MRI along with their mammogram, and at what age they should start screening.
Are You at Risk for Breast Cancer?
Being a woman is the greatest risk factor for breast cancer; but men can develop breast cancer, too.
The risk of developing breast cancer increases with age. Two out of three women with invasive breast cancer are age 55 or older when they are diagnosed.
Breast cancer risk is higher among women with a family history of the disease. Having a first-degree relative (mother, sister, or daughter) with breast cancer increases a woman's risk. However, most women with breast cancer do not have a first-degree relative with the disease.
Additional risk factors include:
· Taking postmenopausal hormone therapy (especially combined estrogen and progestin therapy)
· Being overweight or obese, especially if weight is gained after menopause
· Use of alcohol, especially two or more drinks daily
· Physical inactivity
· Long menstrual history
· Never having children or having your first child after age 30
· Previous chest radiation to treat a different cancer
· Previous history of breast cancer
Although we do not know how to prevent breast cancer, it is possible to reduce your risk of developing the disease to help you stay well. In addition to finding breast cancer early with mammograms, women can help reduce their breast cancer risk by making healthy lifestyle choices such as staying at a healthy weight, getting regular exercise, and limiting their alcohol intake.
You can help create a world with less breast cancer and more birthdays. To learn more about breast cancer and the steps you can take to help reduce your risk or find out more about the Best Chance Network, call your American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345 or visit cancer.org/breastcancer.