Health care providers encourage breast cancer screenings, healthy habits

REED CITY — Approximately 1 in 8 women in the United State will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime.

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a time to promote regular breast cancer screening and early detection of breast cancer. Breast cancer is a group of diseases that affects breast tissue. Both women and men can get breast cancer, though it is much more common in women.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, other than skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cause of cancer in women, no matter a woman’s race or ethnicity. Regular screenings, including mammograms, can help detect breast cancer early and also increases the effectiveness of available treatments.

The sooner breast cancer is detected, the quicker it can be treated, said Lyni Nowak, oncology nurse practioner at the Susan P. Wheatlake Regional Cancer Center.

“By the time a woman can feel something the size of a pencil eraser that’s something that needs to be checked out because cancer can double in size very fast,” Nowak said. “The smaller it is when caught, the better chance we have for successful treatment.”

Most breast cancers have a 95 to 96 percent cure rate, Nowak said. The sooner breast cancer is discovered the better the results are.

A mammogram is an X-ray picture of the breast. Doctors use a mammogram to look for early signs of breast cancer. Regular mammograms are the best tests doctors have to find breast cancer early, sometimes up to three years before it can be felt. The United States Preventive Services Task Force recommends average-risk women who are 50 to 74 years old should have a screening mammogram every two years.

Those with a family history of breast cancer may want to begin screenings sooner. The decision to start screening mammography in women before age 50 years should be made by a woman and her doctor.

“One simple thing people can do is remind the women they love to do a breast exam,” Nowak said. “Women should be conducting self-exams, as well as having a health care provider exam and regular mammograms. It has reduced the mortality rate for breast cancer exponentially by having these done.”

Breast cancer is multi-factorial, Nowak said. Stress, weight, diet and environment play a role.

Walking, not smoking and sensible eating habits are possible ways to reduce a woman’s risk of breast cancer, Nowak said.

Later this month, Spectrum Health Reed City Hospital, District Health Department No. 10 and the American Cancer will offer a free cancer screening day on Friday, Oct. 14.

The free screenings will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and are targeted to those who do not have insurance or who have insurance that does not cover screenings, are under age 64 and who have not had a cancer screening in at least one year.

Screenings include skin cancer, colorectal, prostate, breast exam with mammogram and pelvic exam with pap smear. The screenings will be available at the Susan P. Wheatlake Regional Cancer Center in Reed City.

The free screenings are by appointment only. To make an appointment or learn more, those interested can call (231) 592- 0130 ext. 8659.

“This is a great program which allows women with no insurance or who are underinsured to have exams done by a professional,” Nowak said. “I would encourage anyone who qualifies to utilize these opportunities.”