Breast Cancer Awareness month is ending, but we want our staff and families to know that Breast Cancer prevention should be exercised year-round. According to the National Cancer Institute, breast cancer is the second most common type of cancer diagnosed in women in the United States. About 230,000 new cases are diagnosed in women every year. The good news is that screening can help find breast cancer in its early stages, when it’s easier to treat. Mary Conway, Indianapolis Public Schools Administrator of Nursing Coordinator says knowing how to do breast self-examinations is critical.

 

“Doing breast self-examinations and going to get your annual mammogram is very important because early detection saves lives,” said Conway.

 

Breast cancer forms in tissues of the breast. According to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, about 1 in 5 new breast cancer cases are Ductal Carcinoma in Situ. Nearly all women treated at this early stage can expect to be cancer-free. Women should examine themselves regularly. During a breast self-exam, check for any swellings or dimples. If you feel or see anything abnormal contact your Primary Care Physician.

 

Risk Factors

Risk factors don’t tell us everything. Having a risk factor, or even several, does not mean that you will get the disease. Most women who have one or more breast cancer risk factors never develop the disease, while many women with breast cancer have no apparent risk factors (other than being a woman and growing older). Even when a woman with risk factors develops breast cancer, it is hard to know just how much these factors might have contributed. The following are the main risks factors that put women at an increased risk to getting breast cancer.

Family History

Women with an immediate blood relative, such as a mother or sister who has had breast cancer are twice as likely to develop the disease.  

The exact risk is not known, but women with a family history of breast cancer in a father or brother also have an increased risk of breast cancer. Altogether, less than 15% of women with breast cancer have a family member with this disease. This means that most (over 85%) women who get breast cancer do not have a family history of this disease.

 

Gender

Simply being a woman is the main risk factor for developing breast cancer. Men can develop breast cancer, but this disease is about 100 times more common among women than men. This is probably because men have less of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone, which can promote breast cancer cell growth.

 

Aging

Your risk of developing breast cancer increases as you get older. About 1 out of 8 invasive breast cancers are found in women younger than 45, while about 2 of 3 invasive breast cancers are found in women age 55 or older.

 

“Although, the idea of getting a mammogram may be unpleasant, I know the risk factors and the mammogram can be a lifesaver. When I go get my annual women’s health exam, my doctor also schedules me to go to the lab to get the mammogram done,” says Conway.

 

A survey conducted by the Society for Women’s Health Research (SWHR), a non-profit organization that studies disease in women, revealed that although four out of five women agree mammograms are important, only 54 percent actually get them.

Among the barriers to scheduling a mammogram, the majority of women cited high cost and lack of insurance as the most significant. Under the health care reform laws, all preventive/wellness coverage, including mammograms, are required to be covered at no cost to the member.  Additionally, The Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act includes important protections.

“All IPS health plans comply with those requirements. Employees can elect optional benefit plans that offer cancer coverage and, depending on the plan, would cover no related medical expenses,” says Donna DiNorcia-Rieg, IPS Director of Benefits.

We want to take good care of our staff and ensure our IPS families to know how important it is to get a yearly mammogram and know the risk factors that contribute to breast cancer. To learn more about the risk factors and other general information about breast cancer visit www.cancer.org. Early detection saves lives!