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A Reason For Hope - Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Breast Cancer Awareness Month arrives this month as temperatures cool and holiday planning begins. Other than skin cancer, the most common cancer among American women is breast cancer. Though the public presence of prolific charities has raised public awareness, it is essential to transform that awareness into a self-care routine to ensure any breast cancer-related issues are caught early to increase the effectiveness of treatments.

Just the Facts

  • More than 245,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer annually, with more than 40,000 women dying from the disease. Men can also get breast cancer, but it is much less common.
  • Most cases of breast cancer are diagnosed in women over 50, but about 10 percent of new cases occur in women under 45.
  • 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime.
  • 1 in 6 breast cancer patients are diagnosed between age 40 and 49.
  • 3 of 4 women diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history or other risk factors for the disease.
  • Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women and the second leading cause of cancer-related death in women.
  • In recent years, there has been a 37 percent reduction in female breast cancer incidence rates among women 50 and older. Death rates have been declining since the early 1990s, that can be credited to better screening and early detection, increased awareness, and improving treatment options.

Early Detection is Key

Self-examination of your breasts should be done at least once a month and is commonly performed in the shower, in front of a mirror, or while lying down. Breast cancer symptoms include changes in the size and shape of the breast, breast pain, nipple discharge other than breast milk, and a new lump or mass in the breast or armpit. Performing regular self-exams allows you to become familiar with how your breasts look and feel to detect early changes in your breast health.

The Importance of Mammograms

Along with regular self-examination, mammograms are the recommended diagnostic tool to detect breast cancer early, which improves the likelihood of a successful treatment outcome.

A mammogram is a low-energy x-ray that provides a picture for radiologists to observe changes in patients breast tissue. Mammograms are performed to detect breast cancer in the early stages when the condition is more responsive to treatment and can show changes in breast tissue much sooner than patients or doctors can feel them.

For most women, current recommendations from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the American Cancer Society, and the American Medical Association recommend annual mammogram screening beginning at age 40. Research has shown that annual mammograms lead to early detection of changes in breast tissue when the condition is most treatable and the widest array of therapies is available to the patient.

Women with special circumstances, including those with a history of breast cancer or with an increased risk of breast cancer due to genetic factors, should discuss when to start screening and appropriate frequency intervals with medical professionals.

Cutting Edge Technology in Converse County

Memorial Hospital of Converse County has been a pioneer in healthcare, and our state-of-the-art Radiology Department is no exception. Memorial Hospital is home to one of the most advanced radiology departments in Wyoming and offers Full-Field Digital Mammography (FFMD).

FFMD replaces conventional X-ray film with solid-state detectors that depict X-rays as electrical signals. The electrical signals produce digital images of the breast that can be manipulated with improved resolution and depth. FFMD improves the accuracy of X-ray interpretation and may eliminate the need for follow-up images. From the patient’s perspective, the procedure is very similar to undergoing a conventional mammogram.

A Reason for Hope

While the thought of being diagnosed with cancer may keep some from taking a proactive approach to breast health, survival rates for women diagnosed with breast cancer are extremely positive. From 2008 to 2014, five-year survival rates for women diagnosed with cancer in breast tissue only was 99 percent. For women whose cancer had metastasized to tissue near the breast, the five-year survival rate was 85 percent.

If you haven’t already, take a few minutes to perform a self-exam and schedule a mammogram this month if indicated. Regardless of the results, you’ll be glad you did.