Early detection, self-exams important

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

One in eight women in the United States will get breast cancer in her lifetime. It is the second most common cancer in women, next only to skin cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.

It is the second leading cause of cancer deaths, but death rates are declining, which the ACS attributes to early detection and improved treatment.

Health officials agree that women should begin getting yearly mammograms after they turn 40, but younger women also need to be aware of the possibilities.

"The biggest risk factor of developing breast cancer is age, but it can affect anyone," said Lavonna Wollard-Biddle, nurse manager for oncology and infusion services at Southeast Missouri Hospital. "I've heard of children getting it."

She said every woman from age 18 should be doing monthly self-examinations in order to detect cancer sooner.

"Just so you get to know the lumps and bumps you have in your breasts naturally," she said. Detecting cancer often comes after finding a new or changing lump in the breast.

"The only way you can get to do that is to know your anatomy and get to know your breasts," Wollard-Biddle said.

Not all breast cancers are found in lumps, she said. Sometimes it can be a skin change like a dimpling in one place.

Web sites, including the American Cancer Society and Susan G. Komen foundation, give instructions on how to give self-examinations and materials are often available in doctor's offices.

-- Chris Harris

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