The American Cancer Society estimates about 5,500 women in Tennessee will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2019, and one in eight women will be diagnosed during their lifetime.
The greatest risk factor for breast cancer is being a woman and getting older. That’s why it is imperative that women make time for their annual mammogram.
It is recommended women begin annual mammogram screening at age 40. Women with a high risk or family history of breast cancer may start earlier. Discuss your screening needs with your doctor.
When found early, before the cancer has spread to surrounding tissue, breast cancer has a five-year survival rate of 99%. Mammograms can help find breast cancer early, before you may have any symptoms.
You also need to be familiar with your body so that you can notice any changes. Changes can be a warning of a problem.
Women should start monthly breast self-exams by age 20 and clinical breast exams.
Symptoms to be aware of include:
•A lump, knot or thickening inside the breast or underarm area
•Swelling, warmth, redness or darkening of the breast
•Changes in size or shape of the breast
•Dimpling or puckering of the skin
•Itchy, scaly sore or rash on the nipple
•Pulling in of the nipple or other parts of the breast
•Nipple discharge that starts suddenly
•New pain in one spot that doesn’t go away
If you have any of these symptoms, see your health care provider.
Mammograms are special machines that x-ray the breast tissue. It takes only a few moments. Don’t wear deodorant, perfume or powder on the day of your mammogram. A radiologist reads the mammogram and determines if additional imaging or testing is needed.
You can get a mammogram locally at Cumberland Medical Center, which recently earned the designation Center of Excellence in Breast Imaging from the American College of Radiology.
Or you can go where you are most comfortable.
Most insurance companies pay for screening mammograms, including Medicaid and Medicare. There are programs available for women who do not have health insurance and need help affording their annual mammogram. Contact the Tennessee Department of Health for more information.
Make time for this important health check this year. It could save your life.