October Is “Breast Cancer Awareness Month”
Legislative column from Assembly Minority Leader Brian M. Kolb (R,I,C-Canandaigua)
October 2, 2009
October is “Breast Cancer Awareness Month,” a time dedicated to raising public awareness of breast cancer and the critical importance early detection plays in defeating this disease. Breast Cancer Awareness Month is an opportunity to get the latest facts on strides being made regarding prevention, identification and treatment, along with scheduling a yearly mammogram. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), since the 1990s, breast cancer deaths have been declining largely due to an increase in regular mammography screenings, breakthroughs in treatment and new information on prevention. Unfortunately, despite these inroads, the ACS notes that some women are scheduling their mammograms later or are not receiving them on an annual basis. Even worse, some are not taking time to take care of themselves by failing to follow-up with their doctor after a positive screening result. That must change! Breast Cancer Awareness Month is the perfect time to stop, take stock and make time for personal wellness. In some cases, breast cancer may also affect men. Even though it is a rare occurrence, men can get the same types of breast cancers that women do. The ACS estimates that 1,910 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in men during 2009. As noted on its official website, www.cancer.org, the ACS recommends regular, annual mammograms and clinical breast exams (CBEs) for women 40 and older, along with a CBE at least once every three years for women ages 20-39. The ACS also recommends magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for certain women at high risk. Women at moderate risk should talk with their doctors about the benefits and limits of including MRI screening to their annual mammogram and personal wellness routine. Additional screening guidelines from the ACS to promote the early detection of breast cancer include the following:
- Women should know how their breasts normally feel and report any breast change promptly to their health care providers. Breast self-exam (BSE) is an option for women starting in their 20s; and
- Women at high risk (greater than 20 percent lifetime risk) should get an MRI and a mammogram every year, and women at moderately increased risk (15 to 20 percent lifetime risk) should talk with their doctors about the benefits and limitations of adding MRI screening to their yearly mammogram. Yearly MRI screening is not recommended for women whose lifetime risk of breast cancer is less than 15 percent.