Breast cancer is the second most common cancer diagnosis in women. According to the American Cancer Society, there is a one in eight chance for women to develop breast cancer in the United States. The good news is that early detection along, with improved treatment options, has significantly reduced the death rate in women who are diagnosed with breast cancer.
There are several screening exams that women can take advantage of to detect breast cancer or changes in your breasts. One of the easiest is doing monthly self-breast exams at home. It is important to become familiar with your breasts, so you can easily detect changes or abnormalities. Women should see a physician if they observe a change in their breasts, feel a lump, experience pain or irritation, or notice a discharge from their nipple.
Seeing a physician routinely for a clinical breast exam is also an important screening tool. A trained provider may catch something that you might miss at home during a self-breast exam. Routine mammograms are also important for early detection of breast cancer. A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast that can detect breast cancer or changes, often before a lump can be felt.
Women should discuss with their physician at what age it’s appropriate for them to begin having screening mammograms based on their family history and risk factors. The American Cancer Society issues guidelines for mammogram screenings for women with an average risk for breast cancer. Current guidelines state that women ages 40-44 should have the choice to start with annual mammograms. They recommend annual mammograms for women ages 45-54, and annual or biannual mammograms for women ages 55 and older.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) which uses a magnet to take pictures of a woman’s breasts as well as ultrasounds are other screening tools that physicians use. Women should discuss with their physician which screening options are best for them.
Breast cancer prevention also begins with healthy habits and living a healthy lifestyle. Limiting alcohol, leading a tobacco-free lifestyle along with a healthy, balanced diet and regular exercise are all great starts. Getting plenty of sleep, avoiding unnecessary X-rays, and limiting hormonal therapy also help to preserve breast health.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so now is the perfect time to take charge of your breast health if you have been overlooking it. Women should make an appointment with their provider to discuss their breast cancer risk and have a breast exam.
During the month of October, Henry County Medical Center will be giving every women receiving a mammogram a free gift. Additionally, there will be a Facebook Live and a special event for women to educate them on their breast health. To learn more and to view the HCMC calendar of events, go to www.hcmc-tn.org.
For additional information call the HCMC Findline at 644-3463. To schedule a mammogram, call the medical center’s central scheduling office at 644-8486, option 1.
LORI STAMBAUGH is the community nurse educator at Henry County Medical Center. A registered nurse, she has a bachelor’s degree in nursing.