Working together, we can defeat breast cancer

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October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. During this time, groups and organizations will raise funds to combat this disease, but the month is about more than just fundraising and pink ribbons. It’s about remembering those lost and honoring those who have fought and won the battle. And it’s about helping women understand the risks of this horrible and painful cancer.

According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women – excluding skin cancers – and accounts for more than one in four cancers diagnosed in women in the United States.

Breast cancer risk increases with age. Facts and statistics from the American Cancer Society Web site state between 2000 and 2004, 95 percent of new cases occurred in women 40 and older. ACS goes on to state, “Every three minutes, a woman learns she has breast cancer. In fact, more than 182,000 American women will receive that terrifying news this year and more than 40,000 will die from the disease.”

It is more obvious than ever that breast health is and should be an important part of a woman’s life. While there is no way to prevent breast cancer, the American Cancer Society stresses the importance of screening for the disease and reducing known risk factors to minimize the chance of developing it. Guidelines for early detection in women ages 20 to 39 are clinical breast exams every three years and a monthly self-examination. For women 40 years and older, the society stresses an annual mammogram, an annual clinical breast examination and a monthly self-examination.

Mammograms for women 40 years and older are clearly an important part of a healthy lifestyle. If you are in this category, we encourage you to have a mammogram regularly. If your mother, your sister, your aunt, your best friend or any important woman in your life is, encourage them to as well, and impress upon them that breast health is just another vital part of their overall health.

We recognize and applaud Perry County Memorial Hospital for promoting breast health in our community with the “Our Turn: A Breast Health Program for Women.” Since the program began in 1999, it has educated more than 8,000 local women about breast health and the importance of early detection strategies, including breast self-examinations, clinical examinations and mammograms. Since 2003, the program has provided more than 600 free screening mammograms to qualified women.

Thanks to grants awarded to the program this year, PCMH is able to offer free screening mammograms to 110 local women who meet the program’s eligibility requirements. To be eligible for the program, a woman must be between 40 and 64 years of age, not have had a mammogram for at least one year, be uninsured or underinsured and meet financial guidelines, need a screening mammogram, live or work in Perry or Spencer counties, or Hancock County, Ky., and be unable to pay privately for a screening mammogram. Women between the ages of 35 and 40 with strong family histories of breast cancer and who meet the program eligibility criteria will also be eligible to receive a mammogram through the program. To receive more information, call 547-0392.

To help kick off Breast Cancer Awareness month, a candlelight ceremony will be held at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 20 at the gazebo in City Hall Park. We hope you will attend and lend a helping hand to organizations to support this cause.

Breast cancer is not something to take lightly. We hope this October will help educate more woman and encourage our community to continue the fight against breast cancer.

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