Polk Fit, Fresh & Friendly: Think pink to help fight breast cancer this fall

Published 8:00 am Friday, October 19, 2018

October is a beautiful month full of crisp air, swirling leaves and colorful hues of orange, yellow, red and yes, even pink!

To recognize National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, October is also known for pink — pink ribbons, pink T-shirts, pink jewelry. Even many water fountains flow a bright pink to raise awareness of the importance of mammograms to screen for breast cancer.

For most women, there is one major concern, especially when talking about the leading health issues facing women – breast cancer. National statistics show that about 1 in 8 U.S. women (just under 12 percent) will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. With breast cancer the second leading cause of death in women between the ages of 40 and 55, all women over 40 should be screened annually.

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• According to the American Cancer Society, in 2018, it is estimated that among U.S. women there will be 266,120 new cases of invasive breast cancer and 41,400 deaths caused by breast cancer.

• Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women. Only lung cancer kills more women each year. The chance that a woman will die from breast cancer is about 1 in 36 (about 3 percent).

• For women at average risk of breast cancer, recently updated American Cancer Society screening guidelines recommend that those 40 to 44 years of age have the option to begin annual mammography; those 45 to 54 years of age should undergo annual mammography; and those 55 years of age and older may transition to biennial mammography or continue annual mammography.

Women should continue screening as long as their overall health is good and they have a life expectancy of 10 years or more. It is especially important that women are regularly screened to increase the chance that a breast cancer is detected early before it has spread.

Women who are at higher risk of developing breast cancer may begin screenings earlier.

• If a woman is under 50, has a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, finds a lump while doing a breast self-exam, or has nipple changes, she should see her doctor for a clinical breast exam and a referral for a diagnostic mammogram, even if she had a screening mammogram the previous year.

• All women should be familiar with the known benefits, limitations and potential harms linked to breast cancer screening. They also should know how their breasts normally look and feel, and report any breast changes to a health care provider right away. Breast self-exams should be performed monthly.

• Women 20-39 should obtain a clinical breast exam by a healthcare professional every three years and perform monthly breast self-exams.

• Breast cancer occurs more frequently in women, however men can and do develop breast cancer.

• Contact the Polk County Health Department at 828-894-8271 for information on health prevention screenings available. The health department is located at 161 Walker St. in Columbus, with hours from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday.

Kathy Woodham is marketing/public relations director for St. Luke’s Hospital. A longtime member of the PF3 board of directors, she stays active and involved in the health and wellness of a great community.

PF3 is a group of 120+ community members, leaders and health professionals working together to plan and implement effective strategies to promote wellness in our community. For more information, visit polkfitfreshandfriendly.org.

– Kathy Woodham