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Visits, mammograms mark month

About 175,000 United States women will develop invasive breast cancer this year, according to the American Cancer Society.

Friday, October 22, 1999

About 175,000 United States women will develop invasive breast cancer this year, according to the American Cancer Society.

More than 43,300 will die.

There is no known cause, and no completely effective cure.

The second-leading cause of death among women in the U.S., breast cancer is a serious issue facing women everywhere – and early detection is the key to survival.

But, what about early prevention?

As part of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, River Valley Health System is visiting schools with an important message: Good health habits now mean good health for the future.

"Because October is breast cancer awareness month, we are teaching the students at county schools the importance of doing self breast exams," said registered nurse Mandy Sites, who teaches the classes to area students. "Everyone has been receptive and they have had lots of questions, and I try to give them answers that help them understand how important this is."

Questions ranging from risk factors to prevention are covered in the classes – and the education continues to reach more area women as the daughters take information home to their mothers, she added.

"They want to know what their risk of developing breast cancer is and what they can do to reduce the risk. They want to know if grandma had it then what their chances are," she said. "We spend a lot of time on their questions, and, I give them pamphlets and encourage them to go over the information with their mothers."

The students also are taught how best to detect problems early-on with the help of some models, she said.

"They always have questions about what a lump feels like – and the hospital owns three breast modules with lumps in them, and that helps answer the question for them," she said. "We also teach the importance of doing the self-exam monthly so they will be able to tell more easily if anything has changed or if any lumps are present."

The American Cancer Society recommends that women age 40 and older have a yearly mammogram, a yearly clinical breast exam and monthly breast self-exams, she said. By teaching the students these types of good health habits now, when they reach risk-ages, they will be in a position for early detection where the survival rates are much higher, she said.

"From the teens up to age 35, it is recommended that they receive a clinical exam every three years and monthly self breast exams," she said. "Once a woman reaches 35, but before she is 40, she should have her first mammogram and then start the yearly program after 40."

As part of the breast cancer awareness month activities, RVHS is offering a special price on mammograms. Any mammogram scheduled in October –  even if the mammogram date is three months or more from now –  is $55.

Known risk factors of breast cancer include age, family history and breast biopsies for the removal of breast abnormalities. However, the American Cancer Society reports that 80 percent of all breast cancer occurs in women with no family history.

"Every woman is at risk," Ms. Sites said. "That is why early prevention combined with early detection is so important."

A healthy diet and avoiding alcohol products, among other healthy lifestyle changes can reduce the risk of developing breast or other types of cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends:

– Eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day.

– Eat other foods from plant sources, such as breads, cereals, grain products, rice, pasta or beans several times each day.

– Limit intake of high-fat foods, particularly from animal sources.

– Choose foods low in fat

– Be at least moderately active for 30 minutes or more each day

– Stay within a healthy weight range

– Limit consumption of alcoholic beverages, if they are consumed at all.