Information Possibly Outdated
The information presented on this page was originally released on October 10, 2003. It may not be outdated, but please search our site for more current information. If you plan to quote or reference this information in a publication, please check with the Extension specialist or author before proceeding.
Men and women should note breast cancer risk
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- The second most common type of cancer in women has an entire month dedicated to its awareness.
October has been set aside as Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Each year, about 43,300 women and 400 men die of breast cancer.
This year, an estimated 212,600 women across the country will be diagnosed with breast cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, only skin cancer occurs more frequently. What many men don't know is that they, too, can fall victim to breast cancer. The National Cancer Institute estimates that 1,300 men will be diagnosed with this disease in 2003.
Pat Owen, area health agent with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said early detection is the single most important factor in the battle against the disease.
"Several studies have shown that breast cancer screening with mammograms reduces the number of deaths from breast cancer for women ages 40 to 69," Owen said.
A mammogram is a low-dose X-ray picture of the breast. The National Cancer Institute recommends women in their 40s have a mammogram done every one to two years. Those at higher risk of breast cancer should consult a physician about their need to have mammograms done earlier or more frequently.
Owen said mammograms usually cost between $100 and $150. Insurance often pays a portion of the bill, and for those eligible, Medicare pays 80 percent of the cost for those 40 and older. In Mississippi, several providers offer free mammograms to qualified patients. Contact the Mississippi Department of Health for a list of participating providers. Contact the specific provider to learn qualification criteria.
Regular breast self-exams and clinical breast exams done by a physician also are important tools in the early detection of breast cancer.
Jane Clary, associate Extension professor of health promotion and health education, said women should know their chance of developing breast cancer. Risk factors include an early onset of menstruation, a late onset of menopause, having a first full-term pregnancy after age 30, having no children, a family history of breast cancer and obesity. Living in an urban area seems to increase the risk of breast cancer, while physical activity may have a preventative potential.
"African-American women have to be especially vigilant in obtaining mammograms and clinical breast exams. Research shows that the mortality rates for African-American women ages 30 to 69 are the highest of all women," Clary said. "This is believed to be related to the fact that a large percent of their breast cancers are diagnosed later when the cancer is at a less treatable stage."
She recommended anyone who is diagnosed with breast cancer get a second opinion.
"A second medical opinion on the diagnosis gives you two opinions on how to proceed with treatment," Clary said.
More information on breast cancer detection and treatment is available from a variety of sources. These include the Mississippi Department of Health, (800) 721-7222; the National Breast Cancer Coalition, http://stopbreastcancer.org; the National Cancer Institute, http://cancer.gov; and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, http://www.cdc.gov.