Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center
Breast Cancer Awareness
Veterans Affairs facilities around the country marked Breast Cancer Awareness Month with everything from Twitter parties and Race for the Cure teams to lectures on the emotional aspects of breast cancer, extended hours for mammograms and a few people who wore pink showing their support.
With breast cancer being the second most common cause of cancer deaths in women, breast cancer awareness should be on everyone’s mind every month of the year.
According to www.breastcancer.org, approximately one in eight women in the United States will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. In 2007, over 202,000 women were diagnosed with breast cancer and 2010 was expected to bring 30,000 more cases to the front lines, a 12% increase in just three years.
Mammograms and self-exams can detect breast cancer early, and early detection makes a big difference in a woman’s chance of survival. National guidelines encourage all women between ages 50 and 75 to get mammograms every two years.
Women should talk with their provider about the risks and benefits of having mammograms and other methods of detection to make a decision based on their individual risk factors.
“Every woman Veteran has the ability to get a comprehensive physical exam head-to-toe, one stop shopping for pap smear and mammograms in the VA system,” said Ann Hanlon, MD, Director Women’s Health.
She added, “Every woman Veteran has the ability to use a female provider if they choose too.”
Although a lot has been learned over the past 30 years, we still do not understand what causes breast cancer to develop at a certain time in a certain person. It’s likely a combination of risk factors, many of which are still unknown, that make cells in the breast become cancerous. But why a certain combination of factors might cause cancer in one person, but not in another is still unclear.
There are steps that can be taken to lower risk, but no one has full control over whether they get breast cancer. Many risk factors are still unknown and some such as getting older or having a family history of breast cancer are simply out of control.
However, leading a healthy lifestyle can help lower the risk of breast cancer. Knowing what factors may increase your risk can help you work with your health care provider to address any concerns and develop a breast health plan that is right for you.
For those who have a smart phone or tablet, there is an app for that. Most popular mobile platforms offer applications that will walk you through your breast cancer pathology reports and other tests and information that you and your doctor will use to help decide which treatments are right for you.
These applications should in no way be a substitute for your primary care provider.
For more on women Veterans health care go to www.womenshealth.va.gov or talk to your Primary Care Provider.