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Action: The True Meaning of Breast Cancer Awareness Month
Date: 10/19/2012



During the month of October we see plenty of pink and we hear a lot about breast cancer. But what does Breast Cancer Awareness Month really mean?


By raising awareness, the campaign aims to “educate and empower women to take charge of their own breast health.” It’s about taking action. According to the numbers, and with the help of advancing medical technology like digital mammography, awareness efforts seem to have moved the needle.


Since 1987, mammography screenings in women between the ages of 50 and 64 more than tripled in some populations, according to the American Cancer Society. Not surprisingly then, five-year survival rates for breast cancer have increased by nearly nine percent in the 25 years since Breast Cancer Awareness Month started.


No doubt these numbers are encouraging. But breast cancer continues to hit homes all over Mercer County each year. Women 40 years of age and older still have a one-in-69 risk of developing breast cancer in the next 10 years. That risk only increases with age.


As we continue the fight this disease, it’s important to remember the key is to take action. It doesn’t stop cancer, but it helps you to get control as early as possible.


In 2011, the American Cancer Society released the following guidelines for breast cancer screening:


     Age 20-39

q Clinical breast examination at least every three years

q Breast self-examination (optional)


     Age 40+

q Annual mammogram

q Annual clinical breast examination (preferably prior to mammogram)

q Breast self-examination (optional)


If an abnormality is detected during a mammogram, a patient is typically sent for further testing. If a mass is discovered, patients are generally sent for a biopsy to determine whether the tumor is malignant, or in other words, cancer.


More often than not, a mass is benign (non-cancerous) and nothing to worry about. If there is something to worry about, working closely with your medical team will help you make the best decisions for you.


Take the time to put your health first in October and every month. Talk to your doctor, schedule your screenings and remember to conduct self-exams. By taking action, you can make a difference for yourself and for the fight against breast cancer.


Fredrick M. Poblete, MD, FACS

General & Breast Surgery

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