National Breast Cancer Awareness Month
Early detection is key to a cure
Staff Reports, Hartselle Enquirer
Breast cancer. It's the second-most common cancer among women, following only skin cancer. It's also among the leading causes of death among women, second only to lung cancer.
Each year, October is set aside to raise awareness of the deadly disease, which will claim the life of almost 40,000 American women this year. In an effort to reduce that number, the American Cancer Society and other organizations are working to get the information out on what breast cancer is and the importance of early detection.
Those efforts are paying off. According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer death rates declined significantly from 1992 to 1996, with the largest decrease in younger women- both white and black.
Officials attribute this decline to earlier detection and improved treatment.
Basically, cancer occurs when certain cells in the body grow out of control and most cancers get their name based on the part of the body where they begin. Though it usually effects women, breast cancer can occur in men, too.
According to the American Cancer Society, there are several types of breast tumors. Most are benign, or non-cancerous. Benign breast tumors are abnormal growths, but they do not spread outside of the breast and are usually not life threatening.
Other lumps are caused by fibrocystic changes. Fobrocycstic swelling can make a breast feel lumpy and can cause nipple discharge, but are non-cancerous growths.
There are several types of breast lumps that are cancerous. Each of these cancers progress through various stages. Depending on which stage the cancer is detected has a huge impact on whether the cancer can be cured.
The earlier breast cancer is detected the more likely it is to be cured. There are three main methods of detecting breast center, according to the American Cancer Society: mammograms, clinical breast exam an breast self examination.
Mammograms, or a breast x-ray, are recommended yearly for women ages 40 and older.
During a mammogram, the breast is pressed between two plates for a few seconds while pictures are taken. Mammograms are uncomfortable but not painful and low levels of radiation are used.
Medicare, Medicaid, and most private health plans cover all or part of the cost of a this test.
Clinical breast exam
Between the ages of 20 and 39, women should have a clinical breast exam, done by a doctor, every three years. After age 40, women should have a breast exam by a health professional every year. The clinical breast exam should be done before or close to the mammogram.
For this exam, you undress from the waist up. The examiner will first look at your breasts for changes in size or shape. Then, using the pads of the fingers, he will gently feel your breasts for lumps. The area under both arms will also be examined.
All women aged 20 and over should do breast self exam every month. By checking your own breasts, you are likely to notice any changes that take place. The best time to do breast self-examination is about a week after your period ends, when your breasts are not tender or swollen. If you are not having regular periods, do your exam on the same day every month. If you find any changes, see your doctor right away.