“Most of us have witnessed the effects of breast cancer on the lives of someone we love or are close to,” says Michele Bever, Executive director of South Heartland District Health Department (SHDHD), “but this is not always enough to encourage us to take steps to prevent breast cancer.”
Screening is one preventive step that women can take. With October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, SHDHD is encouraging women to learn the facts about breast cancer and make a decision about getting screened.
Dr. Bever says that “while nearly three quarters (72%) of women age 50-74 years in the South Heartland District of Adams, Clay, Nuckolls and Webster Counties report being up to date with screening mammograms, the flip side is that more than one-quarter of women in this age group have not been screened or are not up to date on screening mammograms.”
Dorrann Hultman, SHDHD’s public health nurse, emphasized screening recommendations of the United States Preventive Services Task Force: mammography for women age 50-74 years on an every other year schedule. “For help making the best breast cancer screening decision for you, be sure to discuss with your health care provider your personal and family histories, which may identify risk factors for breast cancer,” she said. Ms. Hultman suggests women check out the free breast cancer risk tool at www.cancer.gov/bcrisktool/ to answer 8 questions and get their risk score.
Hultman says that one in eight American women is diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime and, sadly, the chance that breast cancer will be the cause for a woman’s death is 1 in 36 (cancer.org). The American Cancer Society estimates that there will be 1,480 new cases of breast cancer diagnosed in Nebraska women in 2016.
Hultman also said that just because a woman has risk factors for cancer, it does not mean that she will get breast cancer, but also that if a woman does not have risk factors for cancer, it does not mean that she can’t get breast cancer. “This is why we are encouraging women to learn about their risk factors AND following screening recommendations,” she said.
According to health director Bever, the incidence, or the rate at which breast cancer occurs, has not changed over the past decade, but mortality, or deaths from breast cancer, has decreased both in Nebraska and nationwide. “This is why we are encouraging screening, early detection and treatment,” she said, “so that we can reduce deaths from breast cancer.”
SHDHD’s community health worker staff offers assistance in accessing quality healthcare and cancer screenings for individuals who have insurance and need a health care provider, and also for individuals who don’t have insurance and need to find free or low cost breast cancer screening services and connection to other community services and resources.
In addition to screening, the American Institute of Cancer Research suggests that lifestyle changes can reduce the risk of certain cancers. “Make it your goal to stay active, stay lean, eat smart and limit alcohol intake,” said Ms. Hultman. “And get screened for breast cancer – screening saves lives!”
For more information on breast cancer, resources for accessing care, and to access to a free decision tool to help you decide when to start getting mammograms, call SHDHD at 402-462-6211 or 1-877-238-7595 or visit the SHDHD website:www.southheartlandhealth.org.