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Mammograms, Self Exams Save Many Women's Lives
By Allison Powe
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Every year more than 18,000 Mississippi women learn they have breast cancer, and about 430 die from the disease.
Although breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among Mississippi women, precautionary measures often can save lives.
Linda Patterson, extension health and safety specialist at Mississippi State University, said many deaths occur each year because women do not have regular mammograms or practice breast self-exams.
"Many women don't think about the possibility of becoming a victim of cancer themselves, so they neglect practices that often catch breast cancer in critical stages," Patterson said.
"Some breast cancer victims discover lumps that could be treated successfully, but hesitate to get medical treatment in time," she said.
Patterson said a mammogram, or an X-ray of the breast, is the most effective way to find breast changes that may be cancer, sometimes long before a lump can be felt.
Judy Shattuck of Starkville, said she believes a mammogram saved her life. Her breast cancer has been in remission for more than two years.
"It is so important to have the yearly check-ups on time because the sooner cancer is found, the greater the chances are for survival. Self exams are also important, but lumps are often too small to feel," Shattuck said.
Even though mammograms often provide the first warning, they do not always detect breast tumors. Breast self-exams performed regularly and correctly can be a valuable back-up.
"Women should realize that breast cancer can happen to anyone at any time, whether they are young women or older, even if there is no family history of cancer," Shattuck said.
Patterson stressed the importance of using three levels of pressure and a search pattern that covers the entire chest when practicing breast self-exam. Women can learn the best techniques for self-exams from American Cancer Society trained instructors.
"During October, which is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, mammogram facilities are likely to offer a reduced-cost mammogram. Don't delay to make an appointment, and be sure to have a mammogram every year after age 40," Patterson said.
For more information, call the Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4CANCER, the American Cancer Society at 1-800-ACS-2345 or your local extension home economist.