Talk to your doctor about breast cancer screening: Early detection saves lives
Submitted by Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center
Each year in New York, nearly 15,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer and about 2,700 women die from the disease. These women are our wives, mothers, sisters and friends.
Breast cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths among women in New York state. It is estimated that one in eight women will develop breast cancer during her lifetime.
In recognition of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, the Cancer Services Program of Niagara County is urging all women to talk to their doctor about breast cancer screening and their personal risk for the disease.
Breast cancer is most commonly found in women age 50 or older. The United States Preventive Services Task Force recommends a mammogram every two years for women between 50 and 74 years of age. Women ages 40-49 years old are encouraged to talk to their health care providers about when and how often they should have screening mammograms. Any woman who is at high risk for breast cancer, as determined by a doctor, may need to begin screening earlier.
Any woman or man who has symptoms or changes in their breasts should schedule an appointment with their doctor immediately. While very rare, it is possible for men to get breast cancer.
"Each woman needs to be aware of her personal risk for breast cancer and make an informed decision with her doctor about when and how often she should be screened," said Program Coordinator Renae Kimble of the Niagara County Cancer Services Program.
Although the causes of breast cancer are still unknown, there are some factors that may increase a woman's chances of getting the disease. Among them:
•Getting older - most women are diagnosed when they are 50 years of age or older
•Having a first menstrual period younger than the age of 12
•Starting menopause older than 55 years of age
•Never giving birth, or giving birth to a first child after age 30
•Having had breast cancer or some non-cancerous breast diseases
•Having a close family member (parent, sibling, child) who has had breast cancer, especially at an early age
•Having certain gene mutations such as BRCA 1 or BRCA 2
•Being overweight or obese
•Not getting enough exercise
•Exposure to high levels of ionizing radiation to the chest area early in life
•Long-term use of hormone replacement therapy
Even if a woman has one or more of these risk factors, it does not mean she will get breast cancer. And, women with few or no risk factors may develop breast cancer. This is why screening is important for all women.
Regularly scheduled breast cancer screening increases the chances cancer is found in its earliest stages, and the earlier the better.
"Great advances have been made in early detection and treatment of breast cancer, and many women diagnosed with the disease are living long, healthy lives," said Cassandra Jackson, outreach coordinator of the Niagara County Cancer Services Program.
Breast cancer screening is covered by the health plans participating in the New York State of Health. For more information about health care coverage through that program, call the Navigator Program at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center at 278-4264.
Uninsured women who are 40 years of age and older may be able to get breast cancer screening through the Niagara County Cancer Services Program, an affiliate of Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center. For information, call 278-4898.