When you’re seeing an abundance of pink, you know it has to be October and, more importantly, Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Despite the month’s focus on breast health, many women still neglect to do regular self-exams and fewer get their mammograms.
According to Intermountain Healthcare Medical Director and Internist, Dr. Judy Ford, “Women run everyone’s healthcare but neglect to do something for themselves. Getting a mammogram is simple and easy.” Busy lives compounded by “I’ll do it later” contribute to potentially delayed diagnosis and treatment.
“Women should be doing monthly breast self-exams midway through their menstrual cycle, or in post-menopausal women, a date that’s easily remembered like the first of the month,” notes Dr. Ford. The importance of this habit results in early detection, which is ideal when looking at treatment options. Small lumps that can be detected by the fingers are often too small for the mammography devices to pick-up, therefore, the sooner a woman gets familiar with the feel of her breast tissue, the better equipped she is to identify irregularities and seek care.
In addition to monthly self-checks, there are certain groups who need to pay extra attention to their breast health. These include women with a family history of breast cancer as well as women with a certain textured breast implant that have been found to increase breast cancer risk. Dr. Ford notes, “The average lifetime risk of breast cancer [non-hereditary cases] is around 11.5%, which translates to about 1 in 10 women.”
Some risks are unavoidable such as ethnicity and genetics, but others are influenced by lifestyle. Women who breastfeed, maintain a healthy weight, and enjoy regular physical activity tend to have lower rates of malignancy. Women who’ve had hormone replacement therapy, drink daily, are obese or sedentary increase their risks for breast cancer. There are a number of mobile apps that help remind, monitor and educate you on breast health. Above all, however, one factor that’s 100% influenced by choice is simply deciding to schedule mammogram.
The rule of thumb is women 50 years and older with no family history should get a mammogram once every two years. Intermountain Healthcare makes it easy since auto –orders are generated and mailed to all female patients homes automatically. This collaboration with radiology partner, Desert Radiologists, is designed for patient convenience and compliance.
America is one of the few countries where women have the luxury to refuse care, even if that means putting their health at-risk. Recognizing that distance, living in remote areas or lack of medical insurance can be barriers to care, Intermountain Healthcare works with the nonprofit Nevada Health Center’s Mammovan, a mobile mammography unit.
Despite efforts to provide access to breast cancer screening, Dr. Ford says she’s heard just about every excuse, “Some patients say it takes too long, it doesn’t run in the family, etc., but I was in and out in 15 minutes and my experience is no different than that of my patients who have had similar experiences!”
Taking care of one’s breast health is an important part of overall health. So the next time you see a pink Cadillac, t-shirt or poodle, remember the bright color is a simply an eye-catching effort to remind you… have you got your mammogram? If not, schedule today!
These helpful women’s health apps help make breast health a priority:
- Check Yourself. Free. Designed by the Keep a Breast Foundation, Check Yourself! helps you make your own routine for breast self-checking. Set a date and schedule an automatic monthly reminder, learn how to massage and familiarize yourself with your own breasts, and get notifications with tips for lowering your risk for breast cancer. Establishing your own “normal” is an important step in knowing your body.
- Breast Check Now. Free. Simple to use and full of helpful information about the signs and symptoms of breast cancer. Plus, the app helps you make checking your breasts easy to remember.
- Know Your Lemons. Free. Time to get confident with self-exams and book your mammogram with reminders based on your age and breast cancer risk.
- BCSC Risk Calculator. Free. Developed and validated in 1.1 million women undergoing mammography across the U.S. and estimating a woman’s risk of developing invasive breast cancer.