National Breast Cancer Awareness Month:
Why it’s a good time to start screening

JOHANNA HICKS | Hopkins County Extension Agent/ Family and Consumer Sciences

Oct. 15, 2006 - October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Many factors affect the chances of survival of a woman diagnosed with breast cancer. However, finding the cancer as early as possible greatly improves the likelihood that treatment will be effective.

Screening involves having mammograms, clinical breast exams and self-breast exams. A mammogram is an x-ray of the breast that usually involves two views or each breast. Mammograms help find lumps or growths that are too small for you or your health care provider to feel when conducting an exam.

When should women starting screening for breast cancer? If you are over 40 years old, you need a mammogram every year, according to Courtney Schoessow, Health Program Specialist with Texas Cooperative Extension Service. Women younger than 40 who have had breast cancer or breast problems or have a family history of breast cancer also need a mammogram once a year.

A clinical breast examination is done by a health professional, such as a doctor, nurse practitioner, nurse or doctor's assistant. Clinical breast exams should be part of a periodic health exam at least every three years for women in their 20s and 30s, and every year for women 40 and over.

Although breast cancer is actually less common among most African-American women than among white women, African-American women are more likely to die from this cancer. Because of higher death rates in African-American women with breast cancer, Texas Cooperative Extension has developed a Web site, Hallelujah to Health, to explain the risk factors, signs and symptoms of breast and cervical cancer. The Hallelujah to Health Web site can be found at: http://fcs.tamu.edu/health/h2h/index.php.

Experts are unsure about the reasons for the higher death rates in African-American women with breast cancer, but one possible cause is that African-American women tend to not have mammograms or clinical breast exams, so the cancer is not detected early enough to be cured.

Remember: The most important screening tools we have are mammograms and clinical breast exams. To reduce your risks of dying from breast cancer, follow the guidelines on when to get these exams. Taking charge of your health now can lead to a healthier tomorrow. National Breast Cancer Awareness Month is a good time to start screening!


COMING SOON

"Wellness in Texas" Master Volunteer Certification Program, sponsored by Texas Cooperative Extension Service, will be recruiting and training volunteers who can greatly enhance and expand current program efforts and serve as advocates for the Family & Consumer Sciences program.

Participants will apply to participate in the program. After selection, applicants will receive 40 hours of education and will be expected to return 40 hours of volunteer service. Five training days are scheduled in February 2007. If you want more information, please contact my office, 903-885-3443. 


CLOSING THOUGHT

Only in quiet water do things mirror themselves undistorted. Only in a quiet mind is adequate perception of the world.

�Hans Margolius

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