It’s that time of year again. Yes, it’s time for everything pumpkin spice. It’s also Breast Cancer Awareness Month, recognized every October to remind the community of the importance of screening for breast cancer.
Did you know that National Breast Cancer Awareness Month has been around since 1985? The American Cancer Society helped to start the campaign to promote breast cancer screening with mammography. A mammogram is an X-ray image of the breast. It can help to find cancers earlier when they are easier to treat.
The pink ribbon became a symbol of breast cancer awareness a few years later after being used by several national breast cancer organizations. Since then, everything from the White House to professional football players have “gone pink” to promote awareness. In Nevada we have Paint Nevada Pink, our own statewide campaign to promote breast cancer screening.
But this month is not about a color. It is about women’s (and men’s) health. Yes, men can get breast cancer too, although it’s much rarer.
According to the American Cancer Society, nearly 2,500 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in Nevada this year and 400 women will die of the disease. These women are mothers, daughters, sisters, and wives. They can be your children’s teachers and your coworkers and the cashier at the supermarket.
The point of this month of pink and awareness is to remind all women starting at age 40 to talk to a health care provider about screening for breast cancer. Most women should begin screening annually with a mammogram. Many locations now offer this service in 3D. It is a newer form of the same procedure and produces many more images of the breast than the regular 2D mammogram. With more images, it is easier for the radiologist to see breast cancers.
Breast cancer screening isn’t the same for all women.
Some women will need to begin earlier. Women ages 25 to 30 should talk to a health care provider to understand their personal breast health, family history of cancer, and other risk factors. This is also the time when most women begin clinical breast exams. This is when a doctor or nurse uses their hands to feel for lumps or other changes in the breast.
Some other women, such as those with dense breast tissue, may need to have a second screening procedure with a different type of imaging machine, to detect potential cancers. How does a woman know whether she has dense breast tissue? That information is provided as part of her screening mammogram results.
Breast cancer screening helps to save thousands of lives each year. Many more lives can be saved when more women and their health care providers use them regularly.
For women who have health insurance, most plans cover annual breast cancer screening at no cost.
There are resources in Nevada that can help uninsured women and those who do not live near a screening location to access this important health screening.
The Women’s Health Connection program provides breast and cervical cancer screening and diagnostic services to low-income women who are uninsured or underinsured. If breast or cervical cancer is diagnosed, Women's Health Connection patients may receive treatment through Medicaid. The program is managed through Access to Healthcare. Visit online at https://www.accesstohealthcare.org/partnerships/breast-cervical-cancer-screening/ or call 844-469-4934 to learn more.
Nevada Health Centers, which has a location in Carson City, operates the Mammovan — a mobile mammography van that travels to areas of our state to provide free or low-cost mammograms to women who may not otherwise have access to a mammogram. For more information, visit https://www.nevadahealthcenters.org/mammography/ or call 877-581-6266.
So this month, as you see the pink ribbons, the pink products, and yes, the pink Mammovan, think breast cancer screening. Then, make an appointment to talk to your health care provider about screening for breast cancer or remind your loved ones to do so. You can also share the message on your social networks using the hashtags #PaintNevadaPink and #MammogramsSaveLives.
Now go enjoy your pumpkin spice latte.