Early Detection Saves Lives

As we begin the month of October, pink Breast Cancer Awareness ribbons are displayed around many different places – pink products line the shelves, fundraisers and awareness campaigns are featured on Facebook and throughout the community, and many speak out about the impact breast cancer has had in their lives and their loved ones.  Raising awareness for breast cancer is a great and necessary matter.  Today, many programs are available to provide education, awareness and detection are wonderful tools for early detection, cancer prevention, care for those diagnosed with breast cancer and ultimately help empower women to take control of their health.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer found amongst women.  Unfortunately, it is also the second leading cause of death among women after lung cancer.  Though rare, breast cancer in men still occurs.  The chances of males developing cancer is one in a thousand and accounts for less than one percent of the total number of breast cancer cases.  Breast cancer screenings, whether it be a self-exam, mammogram or ultrasound, are all beneficial and necessary for early detection.  They can identify breast cancer in the beginning stages, when it is easier to treat.  Though none of these screenings can prevent cancer, the survival rate is higher for patients who have breast cancer detected before it spreads to other parts of the body.

Women of all ages are encouraged to perform self-exams at least once a month.  This exam will help you to become more familiar with how your breasts look and feel so that if there are any changes, you can notify your healthcare professional.  If there are changes in the appearance of your breast or nipples, unexplained discharge, or you are experiencing concerning discomfort, notifying your healthcare provider to schedule an appointment is top priority. 

Mammograms are a very effective screening tool and should be utilized by women for routine screenings beginning at the age of 40.  They can detect tumors before most can be felt, so these screenings are essential for early detection. Thankfully, many insurance plans cover the cost of this preventative screening and there are programs are readily available to assist women with the financial cost, should they be uninsured or under-insured.

Though the month of October is the dedicated awareness month for breast cancer, we can’t forget that breast cancer is a public health concern we should continue to be aware of and talk about year-round.  Talk to your provider about what screening tests are available for you and to find an appropriate time to schedule an appointment.

We thank the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc. for the information in this article.  Information provided by Sarah Bradley, Marketing Specialist, Madison County Health Care System, (515) 462-2373, www.madisonhealth.com