For women, the preventive health screening list should include breast cancer screening. A routine mammogram (an X-ray of the breast), with or without a clinical breast exam, is the gold standard of care for early breast cancer detection and proven to reduce breast cancer deaths. The earlier breast cancer is detected, the more treatment options women have to fight the disease. Finding cancer early offers the best chance of surviving it - no matter your age.
October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and since its inception a quarter century ago, breast cancer awareness and education about early detection methods, such as mammograms, has helped to save lives and has empowered millions of women to have a greater hand in their own health
I recommend that women ages 50 to 74 have a mammogram every two years. This applies to women whose general health merits screening. However you should talk with your doctor about your situation. He or she will help you decide when and how often you need a mammogram. After age 74, it's unclear if mammography still has benefit. Again, speak to your doctor to determine your specific screening needs.
Are You at Risk?
Breast cancer occurs primarily in women; however men are also at risk. The risk of getting the disease increases with age and early detection is your best protection.
While research shows that most women who develop breast cancer do not have a history of the disease in their family, science cannot always explain why one person gets cancer and another does not. Scientists continue to study the general patterns of cancer in the population throughout the world to learn what things in our environment and what things in our lives may increase our chance of developing cancer.
Remember the risks are not the same for all women, and in some cases, women may be able to reduce their breast cancer risk by making healthy lifestyle choices. Your health care provider is always your best resource to discuss the methods of preventing cancer that might be effective for you, including your risk factors and protective factors.
Where can I get a
Talk to your primary care doctor, gynecologist or nurse.
Ask your local health department or clinic.
Call the National Cancer Institute's (NCI) Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237).
Dr. Judith Black is the medical director for Senior Markets at Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield West Virginia.