October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

There’s a good chance this disease will affect your life or the life of someone close to you because it is so common. Only skin cancer has higher rates. One in eight women will develop breast cancer in their lifetimes. Nationally, 246,660 women and more than 2,500 men will be diagnosed with the disease this year, and almost 40,500 women and 440 men will die from it. Here in Idaho, more than 1,000 breast cancer cases were diagnosed in 2013 with almost 200 deaths (191 in 2014).

Let’s talk about risk. Is it possible for a person to reduce their risk?

Risk factors for breast cancer include being female, getting older, and becoming a mother later in life. Other factors include a family history of breast cancer, being overweight and not getting enough exercise. Even though you can’t control your genetic risk for the disease, you can take steps to stay healthy and help prevent it. Maintaining a healthy weight, limiting alcoholic drinks, knowing your family history, and getting the recommended regular screenings all help reduce your risk.

What can women do to detect breast cancer early?

Regular mammograms are the best tests doctors have to find breast cancer early. In fact, mammograms can detect breast cancer up to three years before it can be felt. Health officials recommend that women should talk to their doctors about when they should begin getting mammograms, but average-risk women who are 50-74 years old should have a mammogram every two years. All women should regularly check for changes in the size or shape of their breasts, feel for lumps, and discuss any changes to their nipples with their doctors.

Why is breast cancer screening important?

The earlier cancer is found, the earlier you can get treatment for it. For breast cancer found before the disease spreads, nationally the five-year survival rate is 99 percent. But for late-stage cases, the five-year survival rate drops to 24 percent. That’s why early detection is important.

Getting screened seems like a no-brainer. Why all the reminders?

Because women, especially in Idaho, are notoriously bad about it. Idaho has the lowest mammography rate in the United States, even though the evidence is clear that getting a regular screening could save your life. So if you are part of the 30 percent of Idaho women who should have had a mammogram but haven’t, please talk to your doctor about getting that scheduled.

Where can women get screened?

Talk to your doctor about your options and to help you find a clinic. Low income women can find out about free screening through the Women’s Health Check program at www.womenshealthcheck.dhw.idaho.gov.

(Note: A Closer Look At Your Health airs at 6:50 a.m. most Tuesday’s on KBOI News Radio 670. This is an edited transcript from Oct. 11. Join us next week — we’ll be talking about domestic violence.)

More resources:

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