More women in the United States get breast cancer than any other type of cancer except for skin cancer, and the number of cases per 1,000 women has increased slightly each year over the past 50 years, according to data released by the National Cancer Institute.
But women can help prevent breast cancer from becoming a fatal disease by using a combination of self-examination and medical exams that some call the "Triple Touch" approach.
Triple Touch includes three strategies for detecting breast cancer in its earliest, most treatable stages:
n Regular self-examinations of both breasts at least once a month
n Annual doctor visit for a clinical exam
n Mammography screening as often as National Cancer Institute Guidelines suggest (once each year for women ages 40 and over).
"When a woman uses the Triple Touch approach, she is doing everything she can to detect breast cancer at the earliest stages, when the chances for a complete cure are highest," said Heather Houseworth, community relations manager at The Memorial Hospital. "Women should also determine if they have a higher risk of breast cancer, so that their doctors can work with them to be especially vigilant in screening for the disease."
Women are at higher risk for breast cancer, Houseworth said, if their mother or a sister had breast cancer or if they have had the disease before. Women who have had a number of chest x-rays, such as radiation treatment for childhood Hodgkin's disease, also have a greater risk of developing breast cancer.
Age also increases a woman's risk of developing breast cancer. Most guidelines now encourage women to have a yearly mammography screening once they reach age 40, and studies have confirmed that regular mammograms reduce the number of deaths from breast cancer for women between the ages of 50 and 69.
While breast self-examination is important, Houseworth said, studies have not shown that self-examination alone decreases the number of deaths from breast cancer.
"We really encourage breast self-examination, but women should do that as part of the Triple Touch approach, Houseworth stressed. "Women should also have a regular examination by a doctor and routine mammography screening to help ensure that any changes in the breast tissue are detected as early as possible."
For training on self-examination and more information about breast care and breast cancer, call The Memorial Hospital at 824-9411 for Information about screening for breast cancer. Other cancer information is available from the National Cancer Institute's Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237).
During the month of October, The Memorial Hospital is offering mammogram screenings for the discounted price of $80. Anyone who makes and appointment with a friend saves an additional $8.
Call 826-3250 to make an appointment or for more information on mammograms.