Early detection can stop common killer in its tracks

Saturday, October 11, 2008

There's a killer among us who claims nearly 40,500 victims and sets its sights on 182,460 people each year, yet could easily be thwarted in many of those cases.

The problem is, many of its intended victims don't do what they can to survive.

That's why the American Cancer Society is encouraging women to fight the killer -- breast cancer -- by encouraging women to fight it by taking charge of their personal breast health and support efforts against the disease during October, National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

The society is reminding women 40 and older about the importance of getting a mammogram annually to detect breast cancer in its earliest, most treatable stage.

"Survival rates for breast cancer are significantly higher when the cancer has not spread," said Kirsten Bruce, manager, health initiative field support at the American Cancer Society.

"Numerous studies have shown that early detection increases treatment options and can save lives. That's why it is so important for women 40 and older to get an annual mammogram."

The ACS recommends yearly mammograms and clinical breast exams for women 40 and older and a clinical breast examination at least once every three years for women between the ages of 20 and 39. The society also recommends magnetic resonance imaging for certain women at high risk. Women at moderate risk should talk with their doctors about the benefits and limitations of adding MRI screening to their yearly mammogram.

While experts do not yet know how to prevent breast cancer, they do know that women who maintain a healthy weight, eat a well-balanced diet and are physically active 45 to 60 minutes on five or more days a week can reduce their risk of breast cancer. Also, limiting alcohol consumption can reduce brease cancer risk -- two or more drinks a day may increase breast cancer risk by 21 percent.

The American Cancer Society and its partner advocacy organization, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action NetworkSM continue to work to increase funding for the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program. This program provides low-income, uninsured and underinsured women access to mammograms, Pap tests, follow-up care and treatment when needed.

The current state of funding enables the program to serve only one in five eligible women ages 50-64 nationwide, and for the first time since the program's inception, fewer women are now being served due to flat funding rates and cuts in funding over the past five years.

The ACSCAN advocacy group is urging the public to ask Congress to increase funding for the program by $250 million this year so it can be continued.

For more information on that effort, go online to http://www.ascan.org/makingstrides.

Nebraska's "Every Woman Matters" program, where available, can provide eligible women with free breast cancer screenings. More information on that program is available at http://www.hhs.state.ne.us/hew/owh/ewm/#What%20does

With the right amount of effort, perhaps some day, this killer can be stopped in its tracked.

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