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Our Best Defense Against Breast Cancer
by Gail Carlson, MPH Ph.D, State Health Education Specialist for University Extension, University of Missouri-Columbia
Mammograms can be uncomfortable, some women find them down right painful.
Mammograms can be scary, or at least waiting for the
results can be.
Mammograms can be embarrassing and time consuming, at
least by some people's standards.
Let's face it, mammograms are no fun. Why lie about
it. BUT, Breast Cancer isn't any fun either. The pain,
the fear, and the amount of time involved in treating
late stage breast cancer can be much worse.
Right now, mammograms along with self breast exams,
are the best defense women have against breast cancer.
The three primary risk factors for breast cancer are
being a woman, getting older, or having a mother or
sister who has had the disease. These are factors that
women can't do much to change. However, just because you
have one or more of these risk factors does not mean you
will get breast cancer. It does mean that you need to
take more responsibility for your health. One way of
doing this is to get a mammogram.
Treatment is more effective and survival is high when
cancer is found early. It is generally agreed that
mammograms decrease deaths from breast cancer in women
ages 50 and over. There is less agreement about their
value for younger women. However, since mammography can
show breast changes like lumps long before they can be
felt, it is a good idea to have a base-line mammography
sometime before age 50. Follow the advice of your health
care provider in setting an appropriate schedule for
Mammograms are now covered by most, if not all,
private insurance plans. Medicare also helps with the
cost of mammograms for Medicare recipients. In addition,
there is the Breast and Cervical Cancer Control Project
which provides mammograms for women who meet the
eligibility guidelines. Contact your county health
department for more information about BCCCP.
Mammograms are not perfect. However, done in combination with self-breast exams and periodic exams by your health care provider, they are effective in detecting most breast cancer early. Let's face it, mammograms may not be any fun. However, the alternative, a late stage diagnosis of breast cancer, is a lot worse.
Last Updated 05/05/2009