We can end breast cancer

Published 11:18 am Monday, October 13, 2003

By Staff
Our View
October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the Alabama
Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program is encouraging all women to be proactive in their own care and awareness. Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women in the United States and is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in women. It is estimated that in 2003, Alabama will have 3,400 new cases of breast cancer and 600 women will die with the disease.
That is 600 – roughly two large jet planes full of our wives, friends, mothers, sisters.
Screening and early detection are the best methods to control this disease The American Cancer Society recommends the following:
* Yearly mammograms starting at age 40 and continuing for as long as a
woman is in good health.
* Clinical breast exams should be part of a periodic health exam,
about every three years for women in their 20s and 30s and every year for women 40 and older.
* Breast self-exam monthly for women starting in their 20s.
* Women at increased risk, those with family history, genetic tendency, past breast or other cancers, should talk with their doctors about the benefits of starting mammography screening earlier or having more frequent exams.
* If a lump is found during these exams, then your doctor may perform more tests. Most lumps are not cancerous, but they should be examined so that a proper diagnosis can be made.
It is not known exactly what causes breast cancer, but certain risk factors may increase a person's chance of developing the disease. For instance, the main risk factor is being female, although men may also get breast cancer. Another risk factor is age. Older women have a greater risk of breast cancer. Other risk factors include family history of breast cancer and race. Caucasian women have higher breast cancer rates than African American women. However, African American women die from this disease at a higher rate than women of other ethnic groups. African American women are strongly encouraged to get screened regularly to increase their chances of early detection.
Free exams are offered by selected health care providers and at county health departments to women age 40 to 64 who do not have any insurance or who are underinsured and who meet the eligibility guidelines of income at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. Women ages 50 to 64 without insurance or who are underinsured and meet the income eligibility guidelines will receive free screening mammograms in addition to the exam services.
Diagnostic services are covered, and treatment is available for those diagnosed who meet residential and citizenship criteria and have no other type of insurance coverage.
Treatment is provided through the Alabama Medicaid Agency.
Encourage the women in your life, the ones who look after others so well, to look after themselves during this awareness campaign. Ask them to have an exam and be sure they do so every year. For all they do for us, it is a small thing to do for them.
For more information on the exams and screenings, you may call 1-877-252-3324.

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