It is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women with one in eight women being diagnosed with it. It is the second leading cause of cancer death among women. Although rare in men, over 2,100 men will be diagnosed with this annually. Over 3.3 million survivors of this are alive in the United States today. What is it? Breast cancer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the United States alone, 232,924 men and women were diagnosed with breast cancer, and 41,324 lost their life to the disease in 2013. Because October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, there is no better time to learn the warning signs and the symptoms, and to increase awareness of this disease.
Who is at risk for breast cancer?
While breast cancer can be found in both men and women, breast cancer is much more common in women. While many risks associated with breast cancer are beyond our control - such as aging, genetic mutations, and having a family history of breast cancer- there are several risks that we have control over as well, such as:
• Not being physically active
• Being overweight or obese, especially after menopause
• Using combination hormone therapy
• Taking oral contraceptives (birth control pills)
• Drinking alcohol
Being aware of these risks may help you make healthier lifestyle choices which may help protect you from not just developing certain cancers, but other chronic diseases as well.
In addition to making healthy lifestyle choices to protect yourself from breast cancer, it is also important to schedule a yearly breast exam with your doctor, no matter what age you are. Women whose ages range from 40 to 49 should speak to their doctor about when to start receiving mammograms, because aging increases your risk of breast cancer (CDC). However, if you are considered high-risk for breast cancer, mammograms may need to begin at an earlier age. In order to determine if you are at high-risk, it is best to talk to your doctor. Women who fall between ages 50 to 75 should receive mammograms once every two years (CDC).
Where can I get mammograms?
You can be screened for breast cancer at a clinic, hospital, or doctor’s office. If you want to be screened for breast cancer, call your doctor’s office. They can help you schedule an appointment. If you currently are uninsured or live in an underserved community, the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program created by the CDC provides both screening and diagnostic services to low-income, uninsured, and underserved women for free or at very low cost, including:
• Diagnostic testing for women whose screening results are abnormal
• Surgical consultations
• Referrals to treatment
In honor of breast cancer awareness month, the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc. is sending out a free, informational guide about breast health to any woman who requests it. You can request a guide by visiting http://www.nationalbreastcancer.org/breast-cancer-awareness-month and submitting your information on the page.
Join the celebration locally by helping the City of Independence celebrate Pink Out Day! It will take place on Oct. 17 at the Roger T. Sermon Center, 201 N Dodgion St, Independence, MO 64050, from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Enjoy some of Independence‘s favorite four-wheel based cuisines. Participating food trucks include Mudhole BBQ, Fresh & Tasty, Pita for Good, and Simply Frosted, who will all donate a portion of vendor sales to Cancer Action. Wear pink to show your support for breast cancer awareness and help us spread awareness about breast cancer to encourage all women and men over age 40 in our community to have their annual mammogram. Buy a pin or ribbon for $1, which will be donated to Cancer Action, or visit booths from Centerpoint Medical Center, Cigna, and Cancer Action to learn more about cancer prevention. All donations from that day will benefit Cancer Action, a local non-profit agency that helps people who have all different types of cancer with their needs. Donations allow them to provide services free of charge. For more information, contact the Independence Health Department at 816-325-7185.
Andrew Warlen, MPH, is the director of the Independence Health Department.