Battling breast cancer
State offers program for early detection, prevention
It's a disease that strikes some 3,400 women in Alabama each year. Another 600 women die from it annually.
The disease is breast cancer and it is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women in the United States. It is the second leading cause of cancer deaths for women.
But while those numbers are scary, there is hope. The use of cancer screening and early detection procedures is effective approaches to cancer control.
October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The Alabama Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program, an effort of Alabama's Department of Public Health, is encouraging all women to practice good breast health.
"It's in a woman's nature to take care of others first, but we all need to remember to take care of our health first, so we can help take care of others," Brooke Thorington, public educator coordinator for the ABCCEDP said. "Our program offers screening services for women who otherwise might go unscreened due to financial hardship. We want to remind all women to take time to schedule an appointment and get screened."
It's not known exactly what causes breast cancer, but certain risk factors may increase a person's chance of developing the disease. For instance, the main risk factor is being female. Another risk factor is age, as older women have a greater risk of breast cancer.
Other risk factors include having a family history of breast cancer and race.
Caucasian women have a higher breast cancer rate than African American women, but African American women die from the disease at a higher rate than all other groups.
Signs and symptoms of breast cancer includes skin irritation or dimpling of the breast, nipple discharge other than breast milk, a painless and hard lump, swelling of part of the breast, nipple pain or a nipple turning inward, and redness or scaling of the nipple or breast skin.
However, few women will experience all of these symptoms.
Free pelvic exams, pap smears and clinical breast exams are offered by participating health care providers and at county health departments to women ages 40 to 64 who do not have insurance or who are underinsured and who meet the eligibility guidelines of income at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. Women ages 50-64 without insurance or who are underinsured and meet the income eligibility guidelines will receive free screenings mammograms in addition to the other services.
For more information on this program, call 1-877-252-2324.
The American Cancer Society recommends the following: