Mammograms a must

by Town Reminder

Breast Cancer Awareness Month promotes early detection

By Kristin Will
Staff Writer

REGION – Breast cancer-related deaths have been decreasing since 1990, estimates the American Cancer Society, believed to be the outcome of early detection via screenings and heightened awareness. The motivation for women everywhere to receive a mammogram is great.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which will be the 26th year organizations involved with the national designation have sought to provide awareness, education and empowerment to women and their families.
Breast cancer is a disease in which cancerous cells form within breast tissue. In women, it is considered the most common cancer, second to skin cancers. According to the American Cancer Society, a woman has a one in eight chance (12 percent) of developing breast cancer at some point in her life. Last year, approximately 230,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer were expected to be diagnosed. About 57,650 new cases of carcinoma in situ, the earliest, non-invasive form of breast cancer, were estimated to be diagnosed. And about 39,520 women were expected to die last year from breast cancer. It is the second leading cause of death from a cancer in women. A statistic of breast cancer causing a woman’s death is one in 36, or three percent. According to the American Cancer Society, there are currently more than 2.6 million breast cancer survivors in the United States.
Although The United States Preventive Services Task Force recently changed its guideline for recommending routine mammograms for women between the ages of 40 and 49, the American Cancer Society, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Breast Cancer Network of Strength, Susan G. Komen for the Cure and other breast cancer groups continue to recommend annual mammograms for women age 40 and over.
Early detection is key to preventing and combating breast cancer. Mammograms are the best avenue to take on the path of early prevention because the screening can detect cancers before they have spread or caused symptoms.

What is a mammogram?
A mammogram is an x-ray of a breast. In a typical exam, x-rays are taken from two different angles of each breast. During the exam, the breast is pressed between two plates to spread the breast tissue. According to the American Cancer Society, women who are breast-feeding can receive a mammogram. As can those women with implants, however, additional x-rays may be taken to obtain information with as much breast tissue as possible. A mammogram usually takes 20 minutes to perform. Between two and four mammograms of every 1,000 lead to a cancer diagnosis.

Who should receive a mammogram and breast exam?
Women over the age of 40 are recommended to have mammograms performed annually. Young adults should also take preventative measures. The American Cancer Society recommends women in their 20s and 30s have clinical breast exams performed as part of the regular exam by a health profession at least every three years. While these exams are not mammograms, they do have women becoming more familiar with their own breasts, providing a baseline of sorts on what they’re literally feeling. Women will come to understand what feels normal, giving then the chance to detect when something doesn’t feel right – at which point they should contact their doctor. Although the risk of breast cancer is low in women in their 20s, such women are encouraged to perform self-exams regularly.

Covering the cost
Most health insurance plans cover full mammogram costs or a percentage, as do Medicare and Medicaid. The National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program provides free or low-cost breast and cervical cancer early detection exams to those without health insurance. The program also assists with additional diagnostic testing if cancer is discovered. For more information about breast cancer and cancer in general, visit the American Cancer Society at http://www.cancer.org.

Schedule a mammogram locally

• Baystate Comprehensive Breast Center
3400 Main Street, Springfield
(413) 794-2222

• Holyoke Medical Center Women’s Center
2 Hospital Drive, Suite 202, Holyoke
(413) 534-2770

• Baystate Breast Wellness Center
100 Wason Avenue, Springfield
(866) 209-7271

• Mercy Medical Center-Center for Mammography
300 Stafford St Ste 310, Springfield
(413) 452-6600

• Baystate Mary Lane Hospital
85 South Street, Ware
(866) 531-8378

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