October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. While you are scheduling your appointment to get your mammogram this month, you’ll want to make sure you also mark your calendar for the Susie Q’s Pink Pancake Dinner, which is scheduled for 5:30-7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 20, at Poole’s Deli.
You’ll get pancakes, meat and a beverage for only $7. You’ll also get your funny bone tickled by the often unbelievable creations entered in the “Art Your Bar” displays. Participants decorate bras and come up with hilarious creations based on unique themes. And if you come for pancakes, you’ll get to see these unique concoctions and help choose the winners!
“(Cancer) mortality rates in the United States are currently 24 percent lower than they were just 17 years ago, thanks in large part to recent advancements in diagnostic and treatment tools,” according to redbookmag.com, but breast cancer still is the most common cancer in women after non-melanoma skin cancer.
It also is one of the leading causes of cancer deaths among women of all races.
“In 2007 — the most recent year numbers are available — 202,964 women in the United States were diagnosed with breast cancer and 40,598 women died from it,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, www.cdc.gov.
“Breast cancer is not exclusively a disease of women,” according to thebreastcancersite.com. “For every 100 women with breast cancer, one male will develop the disease.
“The incidence of breast cancer is very low in a person’s 20s, gradually increases and plateaus at the age of 45 and increases dramatically after age 50. Fifty percent of breast cancer is diagnosed in women over 65, indicating the ongoing necessity of yearly screening throughout a woman’s life.”
Possible signs of breast cancer may include the following:
• An immobile lump
• Tenderness, discomfort or a “pulling sensation”
• Breast skin is dimpled or puckered
• Discharge from the nipple
• Change in the shape or size of the breast or swelling of the skin that covers it
• Breast tissue may feel thicker, even though there is no lump
• Pain or redness of the skin
• Sore or retracted nipple
• Sores on the nipples or breast that do not clear up after two weeks of treatment
It also is important to tell a doctor about scaly skin on the nipple and any change in breast veins. In most cases, the doctor will need to take a sample for microscopic examination to check for cancer.
Breast cancer has a very high cure rate, with 97 percent of women surviving for five years if the cancer is diagnosed early.
• Do a monthly breast self-exam.
If you’re sexually active, on the pill or older than 18, you definitely should do monthly breast self-exams. The exam will take about 15 minutes, can be done right after you get out of the shower and is a great way for you to get to know and get comfortable with your breasts. Schedule yearly appointments for clinical breast exams and mammograms if you’re older than 40.
• Exercise regularly. Get your heart rate up for at least 30 minutes three times a week. It might lower your risk for breast cancer, and it’s good for your overall health.
• Don’t smoke, and cut back on alcohol intake. Women who drink two to five drinks a day have roughly 1.5 times the risk of women who don’t drink.
• Avoid fatty foods and obesity.
How to perform a breast self-exam
• Most women examine themselves both standing up (usually in the shower) and lying on their beds (depending on the section of the exam).
• Lie down with a pillow under your right shoulder and place your right arm behind your head.
• Place the finger pads of your three middle fingers on you left hand on the outer part of your bare right breast. Pressing gently but firmly, circle inwards until you have reached your nipple. You also can move up and down or in straight lines out from the nipple, but do it the same way each time.
• Gently squeeze the nipple and look for any discharge.
• Lower your right arm and switch, raising your left arm and examining your left breast with your right hand.
• Standing up in front of a mirror, check for changes in the way your breasts look. Look for dimpling of the skin, changes in the nipple, or redness or swelling.
For nearly 80 percent of women with breast cancer, the discovery of a mass or lump in the breast is the first sign that something is amiss. Fortunately, eight out of every 10 lumps discovered and biopsied turn out to be non-cancerous, but if you do find a suspicious lump, it is still best to call your doctor right away.
Ratcliffe is a consultant to the Coastal Health District. You can call her at 876-6399.