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Health Notes: A Look At Women's Health

10/11/2013 02:16PM ● Published by Aimee Cormier

By Dr. Erinn Olivier

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and as we go about our daily lives it is important to remind our Sisters, Mother, Aunts and Grandmothers to have their mammogram done.

Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women in the United States and is the second leading cause of death from cancer in American women. Even though most of us can say that we know a family member or friend that has been affected by this disease, it is important to know that death related to breast cancer has been declining since 1990. Most likely this is a result of earlier detection and improved treatment.

Breast cancer screening has typically involved three parts: 1) breast imaging (primarily with mammography), 2) clinical breast exam by a physician, and 3) patient self breast exam.  Studies have shown that 89% of breast tumors measuring 1 cm or less were cured with surgery alone.  Because of the small size at time of detection and removal, it is probably safe to assume that tumors this small have not yet spread or metastasized.

Currently, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Cancer Society recommend that mammograms begin at age 40, once a year, for as long as the person is in good health.  Women in their 20s and 30s should have a clinical breast exam by their doctor at least every 3 years.  Self breast exams are recommended monthly for women starting in their 20s. In this age group emphasis is placed on breast awareness and becoming more familiar with their own breasts so that if changes do occur they are noted and brought to the attention of a health care professional. 

   It is a good idea to talk with your health care professional to determine if you are at increased risk of breast cancer because screening guidelines may change. Remember, early detection of breast cancer is the goal, it can help save and prolong lives.

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