Town stresses breast cancer awareness

The town of Greenwich says it’s ready to do its part to help during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Since National Breast Cancer Awareness Month began in October 1985, mammography rates have more than doubled for women 50 years old and older and breast cancer deaths have declined. So in an effort to promote awareness, the town is urging women to be aware of the risks and the realities.

According to the town, aside from non-melanoma skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the United States. It is also one of the leading causes of cancer death among women of all races and Hispanic origin populations.

An average 200,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with breast cancer yearly, with more than 40,000 dying from the disease. About one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during her lifetime and each year a small number of men are diagnosed with or die from breast cancer. In Connecticut, the breast cancer incidence rate, 2008 — 136.5 per 100,000 population, is higher than the U.S. rate, 121.9 per 100,000 population, as a whole.

The statistics show that while the incidence rate of this disease is lower for African-American women, they are more likely to die from breast cancer than women of any other racial/ethnic group. In addition, studies have demonstrated that non-white minority women tend to have a more advanced stage of disease at the time of diagnosis.

It is estimated that approximately $8.1 billion is spent in the United States yearly to treat breast cancer, but the town says more needs to be done by the people most impacted by the disease.

“Although there has been tremendous progress in treating and curing this disease, there are still women who do not take advantage of mammography screenings and clinical breast exams at regular intervals,” town Director of Health Caroline Calderone Baisley said. “The statistics indicate that early detection can save lives and most likely reduce the use of aggressive treatment measures. Currently there are more than 2.9 million breast cancer survivors in the U.S.”

The American Cancer Society recommends that for early breast cancer detection women should get early mammograms starting at age 40 and continuing for as long as a woman is in good health and getting a clinical breast exam (CBE) about every three years for women in their 20s and 30s and every year for women 40 and over. Women should know how their breasts normally look and feel and report any breast change promptly to their health care provider. Breast self-exam is an option for women starting in their 20s.

Some women, because of their family history, a genetic tendency, or certain other factors, should be screened with MRI in addition to mammograms. However, the number of women who fall into this category is small, making up less than 2% of all the women in the United States.

The following is a partial list of risk factors for breast cancer: increasing age, family history, being overweight in post-menopausal women, personal history of breast cancer, race and ethnicity, hormone replacement therapy, and not having children or first pregnancy after age 30.

Women who cannot afford regular mammography may be eligible for free services through the Connecticut Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program. Find out more by calling 860-509-7804 or contacting the Greenwich Department of Health at 203-622-7836 or Greenwichct.org.

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