Early detection could save your life

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 14, 2004

Breast cancer is a potentially deadly disease.

Although there are ways to cure it, early detection is the best chance for a cure.

Aside from skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women and is the second leading cause of cancer death, after lung cancer.

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October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and organizations throughout the nation are doing their part to help educate women on the disease.

"Women should perform a self breast exam every month," Crenshaw Community Hospital staff mammographer and registered radiologic technologist mammography Debra Smith said. "We have information and pamphlets that inform them about how to do the exams as well as guides to put in the shower that tell how to do it. Women should have their yearly mammogram and just be aware of their bodies."

Here are some guidelines women should follow to detect breast cancer in its early stages:

n Women age 40 and older should have a screening mammogram every year and should continue to do so for as long as they are in good health.

n Women in their 20s and 30s should have a clinical breast examination (CBE) as part of a periodic (regular) health exam by a health professional preferably every three years. After age 40, women should have a breast exam by a health professional every year. A Breast Self Examination (BSE) is an option for women starting in their 20s. Women should be told about the benefits and limitations of BSE. Women should report any breast changes to their health professional right away.

n Women at increased risk should talk with their doctor about the benefits and limitations of starting mammograms when they are younger, having additional tests or having more frequent exams. Women should discuss with their doctor what approaches are best for them.

There are some lifestyle choices that women can avoid to help lessen the chances of breast cancer. Those choices include, decreasing daily fat intake, increasing fiber in diet, eating fresh fruits and vegetables, limiting alcohol and tobacco use and staying active.

Crenshaw Community Hospital began performing mammograms in April. Since then they have purchased new, state-of-the-art equipment to better service their patients.

Many women qualify for a free mammogram screening. Contact the American Cancer Society at 1-888-842-6355 for more information.