Gros: Early breast cancer detection saving lives

Published 12:03 am Wednesday, October 12, 2016

How quickly time does fly!

A year ago I was sharing my angst about turning the big 4-0; complaining about busy schedules and having to “squeeze” in that “oh so dreaded” mammogram. After procrastinating for a couple of months, as I suspected I would, I finally scheduled the appointment and had it done.

Like so many women before me, I worried myself into a state of frenzy over something so simple, yet so important. In a matter of minutes I was done and on my way.

What was the big deal? It wasn’t as uncomfortable as I thought it might be and it didn’t take much time at all. What made me so nervous, like so many women, was wondering if this simple test would change the course of my life.

Except for skin cancers, breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women. About one in eight women in the United States will develop invasive breast cancer in her lifetime.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates that in 2016 about 246,660 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in U.S. women. The ACS also reports at this time there are more than 2.8 million breast cancer survivors in the United States and survival rates are expected to continue to improve.

Improving survival stats are believed to be the result of earlier detection through screening and increased awareness, as well as improved treatment.

Reading these statistics creates a strong case for promoting risk reduction behaviors like eating right, staying active, avoiding excess alcohol and tobacco and for having that mammogram.

Studies show that people who maintain a healthy weight and remain physically active have a lower incidence of cancer in general. Increased body weight and weight gain as an adult are linked to higher breast cancer rates after menopause.

The benefit of having a healthy weight, living an active lifestyle and eating a nutrient rich diet go a long way in preventing cancer.

Over the past year of life in my 40s, I have realized that it is so important to take time for yourself and when it comes to health, you need to take care of you before you can take care of everyone else.

Being self aware and adhering to the screening recommendations is the first step in taking control of your breast health.

The ACS recommends that in their 20s women should learn the benefits of breast self-examination and women in their 20s and 30s should have a breast exam by a healthcare provider every three years.

At the age of 40 women should have an annual exam by her physician as well as a mammogram.

Keep in mind that mammograms may be recommended earlier if there is a strong family history of breast cancer or other risk factors.

Being a year older and a year wiser I know now that a mammogram is not another burdensome task that needs to be avoided.

In the grand scheme of things, the miniscule amount of time it took to have a screening mammogram done will probably be some of the most important minutes of my whole year, or for that matter, my whole life.

For more information, call the Cancer Center of Thibodaux Regional at 985-493-4008.

Laura Gros, RN, is the patient care coordinator with the Cancer Center of Thibodaux Regional Medical Center. She can be reached at 985-493-4008.