Preventative screenings are meant to identify problems early, when treatment options have the best outcomes. This can be a blood test to identify high cholesterol, or a colonoscopy to check for colon cancer. October is breast cancer awareness month. During this month, there are additional efforts to increase awareness of the risks, symptoms, and access to resources necessary to obtain screening and treatments.
The CDC estimates that about one in eight women will get breast cancer at some time in their life. Being the most common form of cancer for women, it is vital that everyone is vigilant in their early detection and early intervention.
The National Breast Cancer Foundation recommends monthly self-breast examinations for all ages of women. While this does not prevent breast cancer, it greatly increases the chances of identifying symptoms early.
Recommendations for this would include doing a self-breast exam at the same time of the month. They can be done in front of a mirror, in the shower, or lying down. If done routinely, you will be able to identify when a change has occurred.
Symptoms to discuss with your healthcare provider, would include changes in the shape or size of the breast, pain in any part of the breast, new lumps in the breast or underarm area, or any discharge from the nipple that is not breast milk.
Breast cancer can present itself without symptoms, making it all the more important for all women to perform monthly self-checks, and get screenings.
Screening recommendations vary based on your age and risk factors. In general, women between the ages of 50 and 74 should get mammograms every two years. Mammograms are x-rays of the breast tissue. Women who are between ages 40 and 49 should begin having regular conversations with their healthcare providers about when to begin bi-annual mammograms. It is important to talk to your healthcare provider about what your risk factors are, and make sure that your plan is right for you.
Mammograms are a preventative screening covered by health insurance, and there are programs available for those who do not have health insurance. Your healthcare provider will send an order for your mammogram to the hospital. Mammograms can be completed at HVCH, Monday through Friday from 8am-5pm. You can call to schedule your appointment at 740-380-8204. Breast cancer cannot be prevented, but with early detection, it can be easier to treat.
Written and submitted by Beth Kluding, MHA, BSN, RN, CCM, Chief Nursing Officer — Hocking Valley Community Hospital for The Logan Daily News.