Regular mammograms can lower risk of dying from breast cancer

Published 4:47 pm Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Other than skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women, according to the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month,” said Southwest Health District Women’s Health Program Director Cynthia Walters. “We are taking this time to point out that each year in the United States, more than 200,000 women get breast cancer and more than 40,000 women die from the disease.”

The good news is that getting mammograms regularly can lower the risk of dying from breast cancer.

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Most breast cancers are found in women who are 50 years old or older, but breast cancer also affects younger women, Walters said. “About 10 percent of all new cases of breast cancer in the United States are found in women younger than 45 years of age,” she said, again referring to CDC statistics.

“Women enrolled in our Breast Cancer Program get routine mammograms yearly starting at age 40,” Walters said. The CDC recommends women 50 to 74 get mammograms every two years and women 40 to 49 consult with healthcare providers about how often to get mammograms.

While breast cancer screening cannot prevent breast cancer, it can find the disease early, when it is easier to treat, she said.

“Our county health departments offer the Breast and Cervical Cancer and Well Woman programs, which provide, at no cost or low cost to qualified patients, clinical breast exams, pelvic exams, pap smears (if needed) and routine mammograms,” she said. A contracted agency provides the mammogram.

If a pap or mammogram comes back as abnormal, patients receive diagnostic and treatment services, or are referred to a physician for follow up.

Men can get the disease, too, she said. “But it is less common in men,” Walters said. “Less than one percent of breast cancers occur in men.”

Some warning signs of breast cancer include:

    New lump in the breast or underarm (armpit).

    Thickening or swelling of part of the breast.

    Irritation or dimpling of breast skin.

    Redness or flaky skin in the nipple area or the breast.

    Pulling in of the nipple or pain in the nipple area.

    Nipple discharge other than breast milk, including blood.

    Any change in the size or the shape of the breast.

    Pain in any area of the breast.

    Sometimes there are NO warning signs.