October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, and Lake Regional Obstetrics & Gynecology is encouraging women to learn more about the warning signs of the disease.
According to the American Cancer Society, finding breast cancer early and getting state-of-the art cancer treatments are the most important strategies to prevent deaths from breast cancer.
“Breast cancer that is found early, before it has spread, is easier to treat,” said Mary Lou Gamm, R.N., BSN, RCN-OB, women and children’s service line director at Lake Regional. “We want our community of women to learn the warning signs of breast cancer and encourage them to speak with their doctor about scheduling a breast cancer screening.”
Talk with your doctor about risk factors that increase your chances of developing breast cancer. You cannot change some of the factors that increase risk, but there are steps you can take to decrease your overall risk.
“One factor that may raise your risk for getting breast cancer is having the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genetic mutations,” said Tilly Schmidt, DNP, APRN, WHNP-BC, a women’s health nurse practitioner at Lake Regional. “Genetic testing is available at Lake Regional to determine if you carry the mutations. If you have a family history of breast cancer, you may wish to discuss this testing with your doctor. Genetic counseling can help patients and providers form a shared decision for their plan of care.”
Be on the lookout for the following symptoms of breast cancer. If you have any signs that worry you, call your doctor right away.
- New lump in the breast or underarm (armpit)
- Thickening or swelling of part of the breast
- Irritation or dimpling of breast skin
- Redness or flaky skin in the nipple area or the breast
- Pulling in of the nipple or pain in the nipple area
- Nipple discharge other than breast milk, including blood
- Any change in the size or the shape of the breast
- Pain in the breast
Breast cancer screening checks a woman’s breasts for cancer before she has any symptoms. Mammograms are the best way to find breast cancer early, when it is easier to treat and before it is advanced enough to cause symptoms. Lake Regional Imaging Center provides 3-D mammograms, the most effective tool for diagnosing breast cancer.
The American Cancer Society provides the following breast cancer screening guidelines.
- Women between the ages of 40 and 44 should learn the risks and benefits of mammograms for breast cancer screening and make a choice about whether to be screened. Earlier screenings may be appropriate based on family history of breast cancer.
- Women aged 45 to 54 should get a mammogram every year.
- Women 55 and older should switch to a mammogram every two years, or have the choice to continue annual screening.
- Women should continue to receive screening mammograms as long as their overall health is good and they have a life expectancy of 10 years or longer.
“Although October piques breast cancer awareness, early detection in any month saves lives,” Schmidt said. “It is important to begin and continue regular clinical, as well as self, breast exams and mammograms.”
Show Me Healthy Women
Routine Pap tests and mammograms can keep you safe and healthy. But not all women have access to these lifesaving exams. If you cannot afford a mammogram or Pap test, you may be eligible for free exams and follow-up treatment through Missouri’s Show Me Healthy Women program. See if you qualify today. Call Lake Regional Obstetrics and Gynecology at 573.302.2764 in Osage Beach or 573.557.2553 in Eldon.
To learn more about Lake Regional Obstetrics & Gynecology and to take a BRCA risk assessment, visit lakeregional.com/obgyn.