Get Your Pink On
Mammography, self-exams still key to fighting breast cancer
October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM), a program dedicated to increasing public knowledge of the importance of early detection. Mammography and self-examination are still the best tools to use for early detection of the disease, and for 24 years NBCAM has been a month-long yearly reminder of that. Education through awareness has doubled mammography rates for women age 50 and older and, for the first time, breast cancer deaths have declined.
“With most early diagnoses we can almost guarantee this is just going to be a bump in the road,” said Deb Stone, RPA, Director of Breast Care Services (BCS) at Falmouth Hospital. “Part of our role is to temper the fear of diagnosis with the reality of survival after treatment.”
Earlier this year, Deb became a “Breast Cancer Patient Navigator” through a program at Johns Hopkins Medical School in Baltimore sponsored by the National Consortium of Breast Surgeons. Navigators educate patients and make appropriate referrals when needed. They also provide financial and support services resources to patients, serve as advocates for patients and serve as support group facilitators.
All FH patients with a new diagnostic finding come through BCS. Deb and Nurse Coordinator Nancy Ferzoco, MSN, educate patients on what to expect after diagnosis and how to make their way through the treatment process. Patients with significant red flags for hereditary breast cancer are screened with an hour-long counseling session prior to BRCA 1 & 2 testing. Counseling, both prior to and after diagnosis, is also a big part of what they provide. The support group meets twice a month and is a great source of information as well as emotional support for the newly diagnosed patient. Patients with individual or urgent needs have access to Deb and Nancy 24 hours a day.
“They need to have constant support,” Deb said. “Sometimes it’s just knowing someone is there.”
Deb has been working in radiology for 33 years, 16 of them in mammography. Nine years ago, she went back to school and was the second person in the state to become a Radiology Physician’s Assistant. She has been at FH in the Breast Services Department for six years, along with her counterpart, Nancy. “Nancy is a grand asset; we form a wonderful, unique team,” Deb said.
Deb’s message to women this month is to be sure to incorporate screening practices into their lives. A woman’s breast cancer risk rises as she ages, so one of the most important things to remember as we recognize NBCAM is that women over 40 should have mammograms once a year and should do self-exams regularly, she said. “We know if we can find a breast cancer before it’s left the breast, it’s very treatable,” she said.
Ways to maintain breast health:
- Maintain a healthy body weight (BMI less than 25).
- Minimize or avoid alcohol.
- Consume seven or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily.
- Exercise regularly.
- Eat the right fats: minimize consumption of omega-6 fats (sunflower, safflower, corn and cottonseed oils) and maximize consumption of omega-3 fats, (oily fish) and monounsaturated fats (canola, olive oil, nuts/seeds, avacados.)
- Minimize consumption of white flour, white rice, white potatoes, and sugar. Replace with whole grains and beans/ legumes.
Source: “Dr. Ann’s 10-Step Diet”
by Ann Kulze, M.D.
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