October is nationally recognized as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which is an annual campaign to raise awareness of the disease. In the United States alone, more than 200,000 women and men are diagnosed with breast cancer every year, and for women breast cancer remains one of the most common cancer types.
Routine breast screenings are vitally important for early detection, thus increasing the likelihood of survival for those affected by this disease. In fact, according to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, breast cancer that is detected early and is in a localized (contained) stage, the five-year survival rate is nearly 100 percent.
According to the American Cancer Society, early detection means finding and diagnosing disease during routine breast screenings, before symptoms appear. Often, disease that is found during routine screening is smaller and confined to the breast tissue (meaning that it has not spread to other areas), making treatment easier and generally more effective.
The American Cancer Society urges women to begin annual clinical breast screenings (conducted by a physician) between the ages of 40-44, and women 45-54 should begin to have mammograms yearly along with clinical breast exams. However, if women or men have a strong family history of breast cancer, a known gene mutation (BRCA1 or BRCA2), or previous radiation to the chest area, they should contact their health care provider to determine the screening process that is right for them.
Symptoms of breast cancer can include, but are not limited to: breast lump or mass, swelling of all or part of a breast (even if no distinct lump is felt), skin irritation or dimpling, breast or nipple pain, nipple retraction (turning inward), redness, scaliness, or thickening of the nipple or breast skin, and/or a nipple discharge other than breast milk. If you or someone you know are experiencing these symptoms or any changes to the breast tissue, call your health care provider for further assessment.
The Ohio Breast and Cervical Cancer Project (BCCP) is a free program that seeks to help uninsured women receive the routine screening they need. BCCP helps women navigate the health care system, locate resources available in their county related to routine screenings, and answer questions about setting appointments. Call 1-844-430-BCCP (2227) and select Southwest Region-Option 5 to see if you qualify for free or reduced cost screenings.
Locally, Highland District Hospital offers no-cost diagnostic mammograms for those individuals whose routine breast screening reveals a problem. These no-cost diagnostic mammograms are funded through the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Grant and helps women in need who meet certain financial qualifications. Call Highland District Hospital Patient Financial Services at 1-937-840-6512 with questions regarding this service.
Thanks to routine screenings and early detection of breast cancer millions of women and men are surviving breast cancer today.
Submitted by Sarah Cooper, Highland County Health Department public health educator.