October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

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Regular screenings aid in early detection of breast cancer

Wilkes-Barre, PA — One out of every three women does not get a regular breast exam. This is a staggering statistic considering that early detection through screenings has been proven to reduce mortality in breast cancer.

“While we all should make breast cancer awareness a No. 1 priority throughout the year, recognizing Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October provides us with a unique opportunity to emphasize the importance of early detection,” said breast cancer expert Victor Vogel, M.D., M.H.S., director of Cancer Services, Geisinger Health System.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in the United States, other than skin cancer. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), more than 200,000 women will receive a breast cancer diagnosis in the United States this year and nearly 40,000 will succumb to the disease. But more importantly, increasing numbers of women can say that they are breast cancer survivors, and they can make that claim because of early detection.

“Mammograms, clinical breast exams (CBE) and breast self-exams (BSE) are important tools for early detection,” noted Dr. Vogel. “Women age 40 and older should have a screening mammogram every year, while women in their 20s and 30s should have a CBE as part of a regular exam at least every three years. After age 40, women should have a CBE every year.”

BSEs are another option for women starting in their 20s.

“The benefits and limitations of BSEs should be explained to women. And, women should report any changes in how their breasts look or feel to a health expert immediately,” said Dr. Vogel.

While no one is immune to breast cancer, the ACS highlights the following known risk factors: age, family history, late age at first full-term pregnancy (older than 30 years), early menstruation (before age 12), late menopause and increased breast density on mammograms. Other factors associated with increased breast cancer risk include postmenopausal obesity, use of combined estrogen and progestin menopausal hormones, high alcohol consumption and physical inactivity.

“Whether you are at high risk or not, annual exams, regular mammograms when indicated and self breast exams are all important tools for early diagnosis and improve your chances of survival if diagnosed,” said Dr. Vogel. “While scheduling these appointments may seem like an inconvenience, that is nothing compared to the challenges of managing an advanced cancer diagnosis.”

About Geisinger Health System – Geisinger is an integrated health services organization widely recognized for its innovative use of the electronic health record, and the development and implementation of innovative care models including advanced medical home and ProvenCare (“warranty”) program. The system serves more than 2.6 million residents throughout 42 counties in central and northeastern Pennsylvania. For more information, visit www.geisinger.org.