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October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. On behalf of the Citrus County medical community, and all of the citizens of the county, I would like to thank the Citrus County Chronicle for the massive effort that is today’s “Pink Paper.”
This production took months of preparation and work, and is a testament to the support the Chronicle has given to cancer patients and our community over the years. I am proud to be associated with this paper, our local paper.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in the United States, aside from skin cancer. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), an estimated 226,870 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed among women in the United States this year, along with 2,190 cases of breast cancer in men. An estimated 39,150 women and 410 men are expected to die from the disease in 2012 alone.
Today, there are over 2.5 million breast cancer survivors living in the United States, celebrating another birthday each year due to the progress we have made in the battle against breast cancer.
If you’re worried about developing breast cancer, or if you know someone who has been diagnosed with the disease, one way to deal with your concerns is to get as much information as possible. In today’s column, I will discuss important background information about what breast cancer is, and how it develops.
Breast cancer is a malignant tumor that grows in one or both of the breasts. Breast cancer usually develops in the ducts or lobules, also known as the milk-producing areas of the breast. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women (after lung cancer).
Although black women have a slightly lower incidence of breast cancer after age 40 than Caucasian women, they have a slightly higher incidence rate of breast cancer before age 40. However, black women are more likely to die from breast cancer at every age, an inequality we continue to address. Breast cancer is much less common in males; by comparison, the disease is about 100 times more common among women.
One of the earliest signs of breast cancer can be an abnormality that appears on a mammogram before it can be felt. The most common signs of breast cancer are a lump in the breast; abnormal thickening of the breast; or a change in the shape or color of the breast. Finding a lump or change in your breast does not necessarily mean you have breast cancer.
Additional changes that may also be signs of breast cancer include dimpling or puckering of the skin, swelling, redness or warmth that does not go away, pain in one spot that does not vary with your monthly cycle, pulling in or retraction of the nipple, nipple discharge that starts suddenly and appears only in one breast, or an itchy, sore or scaling area on one nipple.
Mammography screening remains the best available method to detect breast cancer early. However, no medical test is always 100 percent accurate, and mammography is no exception. Research is under way to improve the technology to lead to better accuracy and to create new technologies. MRI is another option that is used in some patients, especially those who are younger. In my opinion, the use of mammography is not controversial, though a great deal of press has questioned this over the past several years.
The quality of mammography in Citrus County is excellent. In 1992, the U.S. Congress passed the Mammography Quality Standards Act to ensure that mammography facilities throughout the country are of high quality and are reliable. To lawfully perform mammography, each facility must prominently display a certificate issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This certificate serves as evidence that the facility meets quality standards. All facilities in our county who perform mammography meet these standards.
Remember, it is important for women to practice the elements of good breast health. It is suggested that women obtain regular mammography screening starting at the age of 40, obtain annual clinical breast exams by their primary care physician, perform monthly breast self-exams (remember that no one knows how your breasts feel better than you), and obtain a risk assessment from your physician, looking at family history and other factors that may influence your risk of breast cancer.
Citrus Memorial Health System once again will provide free mammography for the first 125 women older than 40 who bring their “Pink Paper” to the facility.
We want to thank Ryan Beaty, chief executive officer, Jerry DeLoach, chief operating officer, David Wells, director of radiology services, Dr. Thomas Ceballos, medical director of diagnostic imaging, and Citrus Memorial Health System for providing this screening opportunity for our community.
Breast cancer carries a very high cure rate when caught early and treated appropriately. Be your own best advocate — get your screening tests done as recommended, and continue to celebrate many more birthdays with all of us.
Dr. C. Joseph Bennett is a board-certified radiation oncologist and a member of the Citrus County Unit of the American Cancer
Society. Watch “Navigating Cancer” on WYKE TV at 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays and at 10 a.m. Thursdays. If you have any suggestions for topics, or have any questions, contact him at 522 N. Lecanto Highway, Lecanto, FL 34461, or email