MAYVILLE - In recognition of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Christine Schuyler, Chautauqua County public health director is encouraging all women to talk to their health care providers about breast cancer screening and their personal risk for the disease.
"Great strides have been made in early detection and treatment of breast cancer, and many women diagnosed with the disease are living long, healthy lives," Schuyler said. "During Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we urge women to consult with their health care providers to learn more about the disease, discuss their fears and concerns, and develop an appropriate plan for breast cancer screening. When coupled with new treatment options, early stage diagnosis can significantly improve a woman's chance of survival."
It is recommended women between 50 and 74 years of age get a mammogram every two years. Other women, including those aged 40- and 49-years-old, or those with family histories or other risk factors for breast cancer, or who have any symptoms or changes in their breasts, should talk to their doctors about what screening schedule is right for them.
Recommendations for when a woman should begin breast cancer screening, and how often they should be screened may differ among leading organizations that develop guidelines for cancer screening.
"Regardless of these differences, each woman should be aware of her personal risk for breast cancer and decide, with her doctor, when and how often she should be screened for breast cancer," Schuyler said.
Breast cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths among women in New York state after lung cancer. On average, more than 14,000 women in New York are newly diagnosed with breast cancer each year, and more than 2,700 women die annually from the disease.
Although the causes of breast cancer are still unknown, the following factors may increase a woman's risk for the disease:
Having a first menstrual period at a young age;
Starting menopause at an older age;
Never giving birth or having giving birth to a first child after 30 years of age;
Having a personal or family history (on the mother's or father's side) of breast cancer, especially early (pre-menopausal) breast cancer;
Having certain gene mutations such as BRCA 1 or BRCA 2;
Being overweight or obese;
Drinking alcoholic beverages (The level of risk rises as the amount of alcohol consumed rises.);
Having a history of radiation exposure to the chest; or
Taking hormone replacement therapy for an extended period of time.
Even if a woman has one or more of the risk factors for breast cancer, it does not mean she will be diagnosed with the disease. Conversely, many women diagnosed with breast cancer do not have any risk factors or unusual symptoms, which is why screening is important for all women. Those who do have a personal or family history of breast cancer may want to consider genetic counseling to determine if they are at greater risk for developing the disease.
New York state funds Cancer Services Program partnerships which provide free breast cancer screening for eligible, uninsured women who are 40 years of age or older. The state also pays for programs that provide counseling, education, support and legal services to women with cancer and their families and caregivers. To find a Cancer Services Program Partnership or to locate a genetic counselor, legal services or breast cancer support program, call 1-866-442-2262 or visit www.health.ny.gov/cancerservicesprogram.
For more information about breast cancer, including prevention, and diagnosis visit the state's website, www.health.ny.gov/publications/8506/index.htm.
For information about breast cancer treatment, visit health.ny.gov/public ations/0401.