October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) Breast and Cervical Cancer Program (BCCP) reminds women that early detection of breast cancer via regularly scheduled exams offers the best chance for survival. The American Cancer Society estimates that 1,820 new breast cancer cases will be diagnosed in Mississippi in 2009, and 430 women will die from the disease.
MSDH recommends the following:
- Yearly mammograms starting at age 40 and continuing for as long as a woman is in good health.
- A yearly clinical breast exam as part of a periodic health exam starting at age 21.
- Monthly breast self-exams for women 18 and older.
Women should know how their breasts normally feel and report any breast changes promptly to their health care providers.
Some women may have a higher risk for developing breast cancer:
- Women over age 50: most breast cancer cases occur in women over the age of 50, and risk continues to increases with age
- Women with a family history of breast cancer: having a first-degree relative (mother, sister or daughter) with a history of breast cancer indicates a higher risk for breast cancer
- Women who have already had cancer in one breast
- Women who are obese
- Women who are childless or who give birth after age 30
- Women who had their first period at an unusually young age
- Women who enter menopause at an unusually late age
Women who have an increased risk of breast cancer should ask doctors whether early mammograms or other screening methods are right for them.
The MSDH BCCP offers screening mammography through contracted providers to uninsured women between 50 and 64 years of age and older. Women 40 to 49 are eligible for screening mammograms when special funding is available. Special exceptions are available for those women between the ages of 18 and 39, but they must receive prior approval. For more information about the program, contact the MSDH BCCP at (601) 576-7466.