October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Published 9:22 pm Wednesday, October 8, 2008

In my desire to share my thoughts, I took some time to write about an issue that pertains most especially to women. I dedicate this piece in honor of the memory of my mother-in-law, Zeny, who died of breast cancer almost two decades ago. Had she lived through the years, she would have witnessed how her two grandkids have grown to become college students. Mama Zeny did have a mastectomy and chemotherapy afterwards, but the cancer had metastasized. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This observance highlights the importance of early detection, prevention, and protection from breast cancer and other related abnormalities. It’s been said that early detection is the key to cancer survival.

In his book, “Breast Care: The Good News,” Dr. W.R. Spence notes that breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among women between the ages of 40 and 55, second only to lung cancer. He also says about one in every 10 will develop benign breast tumors, nine out of 10 breast tumors will be found by women themselves, and 9.5 out of 10 will be alive five years or more after treatment. So with early detection, the rate of survival could certainly be 95 percent. Breast cancer survivors attest to the fact that early detection plays a vital role in their survival and success.

The American Cancer Society has set guidelines for early breast-cancer detection. At 40, all women should have at least one screening or baseline mammograms, the very first X-ray data or pictures of the breasts that serve as the basis for future comparison. For women age 40 and over, they should have a mammography every one or two years or as directed by their doctor or healthcare provider. Women at high risk should have a frequent or regular mammography, as per their doctor’s recommendation. Women in their 20s and 30s should have a clinical breast exam every three years and every year for women 40 years old and over. For women starting in their 20s, a monthly breast self-exam is an option. Women should know how their breasts normally feel and should report any breast pain or change promptly to their doctor or healthcare provider.

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Likewise, Dr. Spence also recommends females should perform breast self-examination at least once a month. These exams play a vital role in the early detection of any breast abnormality. The best time to perform them, he notes, is seven to 10 days after their last menstrual period. To find out how to perform a breast self-exam, visit www.cancer.org.

One of the best tools to detect breast cancer is the routine mammography. If you haven’t had one, visit your doctor and obtain a referral to have a mammogram.

Now, once your doctor or healthcare provider has accessed/obtained/reviewed the results of your mammogram, he or she’ll confer with you and if he/she found something significant from your mammogram s/he’ll tell you upfront. Follow up visits to your doctor will be set.

For information about National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, visit the Web site at www.nbcam.org. For more information about breast cancer, call the American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345, or visit their Web site at www.cancer.org.