October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month
Nashville, TN – Clinical breast exams and mammograms are powerful weapons in the fight against breast cancer. But many women go without these recommended screening tests for a variety of reasons: they don’t think they’re at risk for breast cancer, lack insurance coverage for the screenings, don’t have time for an exam or the means to travel to a health provider, or simply fear the results and what may come next. During National Breast Cancer Awareness Month this October, the Department of Health is urging all women over age 40 to get these important annual screening tests and reminding them resources are available to assist them.
“All women are at risk for breast cancer, especially as they age, and there are resources available for those who don’t have insurance coverage for screening and help with treatment if that becomes necessary,” said Health Commissioner Susan R. Cooper, MSN, RN. “We urge Tennessee women to get screened for breast cancer and talk to their health providers about ways to reduce their risk for this disease.”
Clinical breast exams and mammograms are the best methods for finding breast cancer early and offering protection against the disease by leading women to get treatment before the cancer is in advanced stages. The survival rate is greater than 95 percent for women whose breast cancer is found at an early stage.
The early signs of breast cancer may include skin irritation, dimpling, swelling, a breast lump, tenderness, nipple changes or pain or an abnormality that is detected on a mammogram. Women should contact their health care provider if any of these symptoms appear, and should follow guidelines for yearly breast health screenings.
“Breast cancer screening should begin at age 40 and continue according to the schedule recommended by your health care provider,” said Mary Jane Dewey, director of the Tennessee Breast and Cervical Screening Program. “We are particularly concerned about the number of women with Medicare coverage who do not request this annual screening. A mammogram is a covered benefit for those enrolled in Medicare, and since breast cancer risk increases with age, it is especially important for women over age 65 to seek these services.”
All women are urged to contact their health care provider to schedule an appointment for a clinical breast exam and mammogram. Those without a regular provider may contact their local community health center or county health department for information on screening services. A list of county health department locations may be found online at http://health.state.tn.us/localdepartments.htm.
The Tennessee Breast and Cervical Screening Program is available in most health departments and some community health centers across the state to enroll uninsured women with limited income for clinical breast exams, Pap tests and mammograms at no charge. For more information, call the toll-free number 1-877-96-WOMEN (1-877-969-6636) or visit the TDOH Web site at http://health.state.tn.us/BCC/index.htm.