I spend more time than I would like to at hospitals and clinics. I guess it is just part of the job. But last week I had to go for a visit for my own health. It was time for my annual mammogram. Now my tween-age daughter might say this is “TMI” or too much information. But I think…that this is actually the opposite. I think it is necessary for us to discuss important health issues at any age. And being informed and keeping the lines of communication open regarding breast health should be a priority.
According to Harvard’s Women’s Health Watch, half of newly diagnosed women with breast cancer are over 60, and more than a fifth are over 70. Although the risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer increases with age, the chance of dying from it declines steadily. “Women who have lived to an advanced age do very well when treated for breast cancer,” says Dr. Hal Burstein, senior physician and breast cancer specialist at Harvard-affiliated Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
But the path to early detection and effective treatment isn’t always clear for older women; once you’ve reached 75, there is no hard-and-fast schedule for screening or protocol for treatment. Instead, how often you should get a mammogram or the kind of treatment you undergo for early breast cancer is a decision for you to make with your doctor.
What are the risk factors?
The Mayo Clinic and National Cancer Institute list these primary risk factors:
- Chest radiation as a child
- Start of menarche before the age of 12
- Adolescent weight gain
- No pregnancy or late pregnancy (after 30)
- Lengthy use of oral contraceptives
- Post-menopausal weight gain
- Late menopause (after age of 50)
- Increased breast tissue density
It is important to keep your appointments for all regular checkups for women and men of all ages. What may be uncomfortable or inconvenient for a day can save your life.
You can find more information at http://www.cancer.org
I would be lying if I said that this was an easy post to write. As a matter of fact, it is one of those times for me when I am at a loss for words. No, it doesn’t happen much. But the harsh reality is that even as I write this post I have had the conviction to stop and check on a friend. You see, she is at her follow up appointment after finding a lump in her breast and having a biopsy performed. We all know someone. Maybe it’s your mother, sister, best friend, aunt or even brother. It might even be you. But there is one thing for certain, most of us know someone who has had to fight this terrible disease. There are many statistics that have been compiled from the ages of those affected to the effectiveness of the treatment. But one of the most overwhelming and important things that I have seen in the numbers is that early detection and treatment are the most important ammunition in the battle. Seniors are also at a heightened risk.
According to the National Cancer Institute, 80% of all breast cancer occurs in women over 50, and 60% are found in women over 65. The chance that a woman will get breast cancer increases from 1-in-233 for a woman in her thirties, to a 1-in-8 chance for a woman in her eighties.
Those numbers are alarming for senior woman. Keep in mind that these numbers are greater for this age bracket for many different reasons. One is because many in this demographic don’t drive anymore thus making appointments for treatment therapies difficult.
You are still the greatest advocate for your own health at any age so take charge of your breast health by trying the following recommendations:
Be sure to have all three types of breast examinations conducted frequently: self-exam, clinical exam and mammogram. Do the self-exam regularly to look for changes or lumps. Have a clinician do a yearly exam and request a yearly mammogram screening.
Don’t let other medical factors or your own age deter you from discussing your breast health with your physician. The American Geriatrics Society recommends regular mammogram screenings for women up to age eighty-five. Get the screening you are entitled to and know that most insurance companies will pay for annual mammogram screenings.
If breast cancer is detected, there are a number of treatment options available. Information is power when considering your own breast health. Be an advocate for yourself when it comes to breast cancer awareness.
Cancer, just the sound of the word sends a shot of fear through our hearts. For women, breast cancer is something that often touches our friends, our families and us personally at some point in our lives. Breast cancer is the second most common kind of cancer in women. About 1 in 8 women born today in the United States will get breast cancer at some point in their lives.
But there is good news, many women can survive breast cancer if it is found early and treated. The best way to screen for breast cancer is a monthly breast self-exam and regular mammograms. These two actions can help find breast cancer early, when it’s easier to treat and cure. New genetic testing and emerging medications are saving lives in women diagnosed with breast cancer today. If you haven’t had a mammogram in a while, call your primary care provider and schedule a visit.
October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It’s a chance to remind ourselves how important it is to take care of ourselves and the ones that we love. It’s a chance to spread the word about how important mammograms and monthly breast self-exams are. It’s a chance to encourage those who are engaged in the fight, support those we love and honor those who we have lost.