Groups spread awareness of cancer resources
TRI-COUNTY AREA—October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and pink is the color used to spread that awareness. Area groups have used the month as an opportunity to raise funds in the fight against breast cancer and to get important information to women who might be affected.
“During Breast Cancer Awareness Month we urge women to consult with their health care providers to learn more about the disease, discuss their fears and concerns, and develop an appropriate plan for breast cancer screening,” said Deborah Minor, director of Yates County Public Health. “When coupled with new treatment options, early stage diagnosis through mammography screening can significantly improve a woman’s chance of survival.”
According to the New York State Department of Health, breast cancer is more common among older women. The risk for getting breast cancer increases with age. More than three-quarters of women who get breast cancer are over the age of 50. Also, the state says women with high socioeconomic status (those whose family income is above average) are more likely to get breast cancer. Scientists believe this may be related to having their first child at an older age, fewer pregnancies, diet and possibly other factors shared by women in higher income groups.
At this time, scientists do not know exactly what causes breast cancer, but the risk factors include:
• Increasing age – as women get older their risk of developing breast cancer increases.
• Family history of breast cancer – women whose relatives have had breast cancer (especially at an early age) are more likely to get breast cancer.
• Breast cancer genes – about 5 to 10 percent of breast cancers are believed to be inherited.
• Personal history of breast cancer – a woman who has had cancer in one breast is more likely to develop it in the other breast or in remaining breast tissue.
• History of benign breast disease – women who have a history of certain types of non-cancerous tumors and cysts in their breasts are more likely to develop breast cancer.
• Hormonal factors – women who start their periods at a young age, start menopause at a late age, have their first child later in life, and have no full-term pregnancies may have an increased risk of developing breast cancer.
DOH added that studies also show that exposure to high doses of x-rays increases a woman’s risk of getting breast cancer. Although scientists are not sure, other studies indicate that taking birth control pills, exposure to certain chemicals in the environment, long-term use of hormone replacement therapy, use of alcoholic beverages, obesity and lack of physical activity may be associated with increased breast cancer risk.
Minor said it is highly recommended that women between 50 and 74 years of age get a mammogram every two years. Other women, including women who are between 40 and 49 years old, or those with a family history or other risk factor for breast cancer, or who have any symptoms or changes in their breasts, should talk to their doctor about what screening schedule is right for them. She added recommendations for when a woman should begin breast cancer screening, and how often a woman should be screened may differ among organizations.
Support groups can have many benefits. Although you may receive support from friends and family, you might want to consider joining a support group to speak with others who have had similar experiences to yours. Support groups can:
• Give you an opportunity to talk about your feelings in a safe and comfortable setting.
• Help you deal with practical problems, such as cancer-related personal, work, or financial issues.
• Educate you about dealing with side effects of treatment.
If you are uninsured or under-insured, you can contact the Ontario/Yates County Healthy Woman Partnership about a mammogram at 1-800-299-2995.
Area hospitals offer mammograms. For Finger Lakes Health call 315-787-4555. Schuyler Hospital’s radiology department can be reached at 607-535-8613.
For more about Breast Cancer Awareness Month, call Yates County Public Health at 315-536-5160 or visit the sate DOH website at http://www.health.state.ny.us/statistics/cancer/registry/abouts/breast.htm.