2009-10-09 / Columnists

SJEH Wellness Corner

Take Steps Today To Detect Breast Cancer Early
Commentary By Meyer Mendel Warshawsky, MD, Chief of Oncology, SJEH

This October is the 25th anniversary of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Great strides have been made in public awareness of breast cancer and in its early detection and treatment, but we must all continue to practice great vigilance about breast cancer in our own lives.

Now is a good time to review steps you can take to detect breast cancer. Here are a few tips below:

Know Your Risks: According to the National Cancer Institute, age is the single most important risk factor for breast cancer. Also important is personal and family history of breast cancer, alterations in certain genes, reproductive and menstrual history, body weight, level of physical activity and alcohol consumption.

Practice Healthy Habits: There are some steps you can take to help prevent breast cancer, including eating healthy and exercising regularly, and limiting fat and alcohol in your diet.

Schedule Your Annual Mammogram: Evidence shows that early detection of breast cancer greatly improves a woman's chance for successful treatment, so scheduling regular mammograms is the most effective way of catching cancer early.

The American Cancer Society recommends that all women age 40 and older should have a screening mammogram yearly.

Know There Is Hope: Thanks to early detection and treatment advances, more women are surviving breast cancer, remaining disease-free, and living longer and healthier lives. Today there is a flourishing community of 2.5 million breast cancer survivors in the United States.

October is also a good time to review the breast cancer screening recommendations made by the American Cancer Society.

They are:

Yearly mammograms are recommended starting at age 40 and continuing for as long as a woman is in good health.

Clinical breast exam (CBE) 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 over.

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.

Women at high risk (greater than 20 percent lifetime risk) should get an MRI and a mammogram every year. Women at moderately increased risk (15 percent 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.

If you have not had your annual mammogram, now is a good time to schedule one. St. John's Episcopal Hospital is offering extended evening and Saturday hours during the month of October. Also if you have questions about breast self-examinations, nurses will be available to answer questions during the week of Monday, October 12 through Friday, October 16, from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. in the hospital's main lobby.

Dr. Warshawsky may be contacted at 718-869-7672. To schedule an appointment for a mammogram today please call the Imaging Department at St. John's Episcopal Hospital at 718-869- 7710. Most insurance is accepted. For the uninsured, low-cost mammograms are available based on a sliding fee scale and ability to pay.

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