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Make This Your Year for Breast Cancer Awareness

Breast Cancer Awareness and Mammogram Guidelines

breast cancer awarenessAs the year moves forward, make a plan to increase your level of breast cancer awareness and education. For instance, do you know the mammogram guidelines from the American Cancer Society for your age?

Screening is one of the most important things you can do. Screening means breast cancer can be detected when it is small, when it has not yet spread to other areas of the body and that it can be found early. These are the factors that most significantly influence the outcomes for a breast cancer patient.

The goal of screening is to detect cancer before it has spread and before it has produced symptoms. Waiting until symptoms appear allows cancer to grow unheeded and can make it much more difficult to treat. When cancer is found before symptoms occur, it may be possible to treat the cancer without a radical mastectomy or chemotherapy. This is referred to as early detection.

Mammogram guidelines: The American Cancer Society provides mammogram guidelines designed for women of average cancer risk. The guidelines are as follows:

  • Women between the ages of 40 and 44 may receive a mammogram each year.
  • Women between the ages of 45 and 54 should receive a mammogram each year.
  • Women over the age of 55 may receive a mammogram every year, or they may switch to receiving a mammogram every other year.

A woman is considered to be at an average risk for breast cancer if:

  • She doesn’t have any personal history of breast cancer
  • There’s not a strong family history of breast cancer
  • She doesn’t have a genetic mutation associated with increased risk of breast cancer
  • She did not have chest radiation therapy before the age of 30

The limitations of mammograms: It’s important to remember that mammograms are a helpful tool, but they are by no means perfect. While they are helpful at detecting some cancers before they grow large enough to cause symptoms, there are times when additional tests are necessary to confirm whether something identified on a mammogram is cancerous.

It’s a good idea to talk with your doctor about mammograms and their recommendations for how often you should have one, based on your age and your personal risk factors. The perfect New Year’s resolution is to make an appointment to have a mammogram every January. Breast cancer awareness may be highlighted in October, but right now is a good time to become more proactive in your breast health and schedule your mammogram.

The YWCA St. Joseph offers free breast cancer awareness and education information through the ENCOREplus program. ENCOREplus was created to encourage women to be active participants in their own healthcare, and in addition to education, the program also connects women with financial assistance to obtain mammograms. Call the YWCA at 816.232.4481 for more information about breast cancer awareness in the St. Joseph community.

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