IRON MOUNTAIN - October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and certainly this disease is pervasive and serious enough to have its own month of national recognition to increase awareness.
Statistics bear this out; breast cancer killed an estimated 40,000 women last year and is the second leading cause of death among women, exceeded only by lung cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.
Medical technology exists to help women and their physicians detect changes in breast tissue in their very earliest beginnings - long before a lump can be felt - when the greatest number of treatment options are available. Real vigilance takes daily awareness - all year long.
Registered Nurse, and 22-year breast cancer survivor, Chris Burns stresses that early detection can save your life. "Know your body and be vigilant," said Burns. "You need to trust your instincts, recognize any changes, and alert your physician. Your life is precious; protect it."
Early detection gives every woman the most treatment options and the best chance for survival. Mammography, though not perfect, is the best detection tool that is widely available today.
The American Cancer Society recommends that every woman older than age 40 get a yearly mammogram to screen for cancer and that women at high risk for breast cancer begin screenings earlier per their doctor's instructions.
In addition to screening, mammograms can be used as a diagnostic tool to investigate a problem in the breast that was found by the patient or doctor, such as a breast lump or abnormal nipple discharge.
Mammograms are a type of breast cancer screening tool using low doses of radiation. These tests are important for detecting changes in breast tissue that may signal cancer. The mammography machine produces x-rays that pass through the breast tissue. These rays are recorded on a digital plate and then viewed on a computer for analysis by radiologists, physicians specially trained to interpret the results of imaging tests. Results are generally delivered to the patient and her physician a few days after the mammogram.
Dickinson Radiology/Imaging Services at Dickinson County Memorial Hospital is equipped with the latest digital mammography technology. Mammograms are provided by registered, certified mammographers and board certified radiologists in a clinical environment that regularly earns national accreditation by the American College of Radiology. Mammograms are also provided by Dickinson staff at Cedar Hill Clinic in Bark River.
Sometimes additional testing is needed or the composition of a woman's breast requires a different type of image be done. Dickinson Imaging Services also has the following technology to assist in accurate diagnosis: 4-D CAD assisted breast imaging; mammo stereotactic biopsy/excisional biopsy; ultrasound/ultrasound guided biopsy; and MRI/MRI guided breast biopsy.
Women who are not insured and have financial challenges that limit their ability to obtain an annual mammogram are encouraged to contact the Dickinson-Iron Health Department, the Delta-Menominee Health Department or the Wisconsin Women's Wellness Program. Help is available for women who qualify for the program.
In addition to an annual mammogram, pay attention to your body all year long. In its early stages, breast cancer usually has no symptoms. As a tumor develops, you may note the following signs:
A lump in the breast or underarm that persists after your menstrual cycle. This is often the first apparent symptom of breast cancer. Lumps associated with breast cancer are usually painless, although some may cause a prickly sensation. Lumps are usually visible on a mammogram long before they can be seen or felt.
Swelling in the armpit.
Pain or tenderness in the breast. Although lumps are usually painless, pain or tenderness can be a sign of breast cancer.
A noticeable flattening or indentation on the breast, which may indicate a tumor that cannot be seen or felt.
Any change in the size, contour, texture, or temperature of the breast. A reddish, pitted surface like the skin of an orange could be a sign of advanced breast cancer.
A change in the nipple, such as a nipple retraction, dimpling, itching, a burning sensation, or ulceration. A scaly rash of the nipple is symptomatic of Paget's disease, which may be associated with an underlying breast cancer.
Unusual discharge from the nipple that may be clear, bloody, or another color. It's usually caused by benign conditions but could be due to cancer in some cases.
A marble-like area under the skin.
An area that is distinctly different from any other area on either breast.
Contact your physician for a referral for a mammogram.