A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Early detection, screenings is best protection against second leading cause of cancer deaths for women

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. In Kentucky, breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among women.

The Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH) within the Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS) advises screening.

“Breast Cancer awareness, early detection and screening are vital issues for women and their families,” said CHFS Secretary Vickie Yates Brown Glisson. “Thanks to early detection and innovative treatments, deaths from breast cancer are steadily decreasing. All Kentucky women should talk to their healthcare provider about breast cancer to ensure they are getting the screenings they need for long-term health.”

Screening does not prevent breast cancer, but early detection increases the likelihood of successful treatment and potential to be cancer-free. Breast cancer screening is done through clinical breast exams and mammography.  In addition, women should conduct self-examinations monthly to identify any changes that might require clinical examination.

Often, an abnormal mammogram is the only way to detect breast cancer.  As the disease develops, warning signs may appear and include;

• A new lump, thickening, or swelling in the breast or armpit;
• Irritation/inflammation or dimpling/orange peel appearance of the skin of the breast;
• Nipple changes- redness, flaking, itching, crusting, discharge (including blood), pulling inward;
• Changes in size/shape/color of the breast; and
• Breast pain, not attributed to monthly menstrual cycle.

Other risk factors contributing to breast cancer in women include:

• Having an immediate family member who has been diagnosed with breast cancer prior to menopause;                                                           
• Personal history of breast problems;
• Early menarche (before age 12) and/or late menopause (after age 52);
• No pregnancies or first pregnancy after age 30;
• Long-term hormone replacement or oral contraceptive use;
• Radiation treatments to the chest; and
• Being overweight.

“Routine screening mammograms can begin at age 40, but women with certain risk factors may need to have one earlier,” concluded Joy Hoskins, director of the Division of Women’s Health for DPH. “As a woman gets older, her risk of getting breast cancer increases.  Make October your month to get screened for breast cancer.”

National statistics estimate 1 in 8 women are at risk for developing breast cancer during their lifetime. Since 1991, the Kentucky Women’s Cancer Screening Program (KWCSP) has performed over 318,228 screening mammograms, identifying at least 2,418 invasive breast cancers.  KWCSP provides breast and cervical screening as well as follow-up services, education, outreach, quality assurance and surveillance services. Since 2002, the KWCSP has referred more than 5,385 patients to the Kentucky Department for Medicaid Services Breast and Cervical Cancer Treatment Program for cancer treatment services. KWCSP services are available around the state via the local health departments.

Additional information is available at the website.

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