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Saving lives

Have you had your annual breast exam and mammogram?

It’s a test many women tend to put off – and that can be a life-or-death decision.

Catching breast cancer in its earliest stages can mean more birthdays to celebrate with friends and family.

As the nation marks the annual National Breast Cancer Awareness Month this October, the American Cancer Society is encouraging women to take charge of their personal breast health to stay well and reduce their risk of breast cancer. Women 40 and older are reminded to get mammograms and clinical breast exams every year to find breast cancer in its earliest, most treatable stage.

In addition, it is recommended women ages 20 to 39 receive a clinical breast exam once every three years. The American Cancer Society also recommends magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for certain women at high risk. Women at moderate risk should talk with their doctors about the benefits and limitations of adding MRI screening to their yearly mammogram.

“Studies clearly show that early detection of breast cancer through mammography greatly improves treatment options, the chances for successful treatment and survival,” said Jessica Garrard, community representative for the ACS in Butler County.

“Early-stage breast cancer typically produces no symptoms when the tumor is small and most treatable, so it is important that women follow recommended guidelines for finding breast cancer before symptoms develop.”

On average, mammography will detect about 80 to 90 percent of breast cancers in women without symptoms. Breast cancer survival rates are significantly higher when the cancer has not spread.

“Women can take charge of their breast health, fight breast cancer and save lives,” Garrard said. “More than 2.2 million breast cancer survivors will celebrate a birthday this year thanks to early detection and improved treatment. That means more special times to spend and celebrate with family, friends and loved ones.”

Women can reduce their risk of breast cancer by taking additional steps to stay well by maintaining a healthy weight, eating a well-balanced diet, and engaging in physical activity 45 to 60 minutes on five or more days of the week. Also, limiting alcohol consumption can reduce breast cancer risk –one or more alcoholic beverages a day may increase risk.

An estimated 192,370 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to occur among women in the U.S. in 2009, and about 40,610 deaths are expected.

Only lung cancer is responsible for more cancer deaths than breast cancer.

Those fighting breast cancer in Butler County can find support through local TOUCH meetings and Reach to Recovery.

Learn more by contacting Garrard at 334-674-0541 or via email at Jessica.garrard@CANCER.ORG.

The American Cancer Society offers information to help make treatment decisions and access to its programs everyday around the clock through 1-800-227-2347 or cancer.org.