City raises awareness of breast cancer

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 4, 2000

Staff Writer

Early detection is the key to surviving breast cancer.

Kathe Bray knows that.

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In January, Bray will become a 17-year survivor of breast cancer and it was a conscientious doctor’s insistence of a mammogram that may have saved her life.

"Mine was detected by a mammogram," Bray said of her cancer.

She had missed her annual checkup the year before and, for that reason, her doctor strongly urged her to have a mammogram.

"I felt fortunate she insisted I go ahead and get it," she said of the test that can even the smallest lumps in the breast.

Now, Bray is conscious of having a mammogram each year and encourages others to do the same.

This year, approximately 182,800 women in the United States will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer. Some 40,800 women will die from it.

Right here in Alabama, 2,700 will develop breast cancer and about 600 will die.

But, bringing awareness of the importance of early detection through Breast Cancer Awareness Month activities is the key to keeping people alive.

"I think it’s important because it makes people aware there still isn’t a cure, although there’s been a lot of progress," Bray said of activities, such as the one held at Troy City Hall Tuesday morning.

Regular screenings are the best way to detect cancerous lumps early, which makes it easier to treat.

Although many breast cancers are found by the woman herself through self exams, the smallest cancers are detected by mammograms.

The American Cancer Society recommends all women over the age of 40 have a mammogram and clinical breast exam every year and perform monthly breast self examination. Women at particularly high risk should talk with their doctors about starting screening earlier.

More than 75 percent of the women diagnosed with breast cancer are 50 or older.

Women between the ages of 20 and 39 should have a clinical breast exam every three years and should perform monthly breast self exams.

All women are at risk for breast cancer, but the biggest risks are being female and aging.

Following are some of the risk factors to which women should pay close attention:

· Personal or family history of breast cancer.

· History of non-cancerous breast disease, diagnosed as proliferative breast disease.

· Having early onset of menstrual periods or late menopause.

· Recent use of oral contraceptives or post-menopausal estrogens.

· Never having children or having the first child after age 30.

· Chest radiation therapy as a child or young adult.

· Consuming two or more alcoholic beverages a day.

· Obesity, especially after menopause.

Paying attention to those risk factors, staying physically active, eating well and staying away from certain drugs may not prevent breast cancer, but it can lower the risk.