By Jacquelyn Wilkerson, Sovah Health Chief Nursing Officer
October marks Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a time set aside each year to review our knowledge of this disease, shine a spotlight on its risks and symptoms, and raise awareness of how we can help fight it.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 245,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year in the U.S., and more than 40,000 women die from the disease. In fact, breast cancer is the most common form of cancer among American women. So, it’s vital that we take the opportunity to focus on this disease and how we can help minimize its impact on our health.
But the fight doesn’t end on October 31. Taking the right steps to combat this disease includes staying informed and taking care of your health all year, including having an annual mammogram.
If you’re 40 or older, it’s a good idea to schedule a mammogram each year. A mammogram is a simple, routine screening that helps detect breast cancer earlier than waiting for symptoms to appear. Early detection is a crucial factor in effectively fighting breast cancer. Most women with breast cancer have no risk factors and no medical history of the disease, and some don’t even have symptoms. A mammogram can detect the disease before symptoms appear, and early detection can also result in an easier treatment plan if cancer is discovered.
While most breast cancer cases occur in women 50 and older, women younger than 45 account for about 10 percent of new cases in the U.S., and some younger women are at higher risk than others. Regular mammograms are recommended for women 40 and older, but if you are at higher risk, you may need to begin annual screenings sooner. It’s smart to talk with your provider about your risks and ask about the best time for you to get started with regular mammograms.
Besides annual screenings, there are a number of steps you can take to help lower your risk for breast cancer, including regular exercise, adequate sleep, healthy eating, limited alcohol intake and avoidance of chemicals that can cause cancer.
This October, step beyond awareness and into the peace-of-mind that comes from ensuring that you’re taking care of yourself and doing what you can to stay on the road to good health all year long.
If you would like to schedule a mammogram or talk with a doctor about your breast health, Sovah Health can help. Call 844.GO.SOVAH, and they can get you connected to the right care. For more information on breast cancer and mammograms, visit breastcancer.org and cdc.gov/cancer/breast.