Early detection key in surviving disease

Breast exams can help prevent cancer

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— When you read the statistic that in a woman's lifetime, one out of eight women will develop breast cancer, it is a staggering thought. I have eight women neighbors, more than eight friends and eight co-workers which one of us in each group will be diagnosed with breast cancer?

If you read no more of this article, please remember this: A woman's chance of surviving breast cancer is greatly improved with early detection and treatment.

The risk of developing breast cancer increases with age. This is why good breast health is even more important as a woman ages. A family history of the disease and early menstruation (before age 12) or late menopause (after age 50) may also increase the risk of a woman's developing breast cancer.

The best things you can do to prevent breast cancer are to maintain a healthy weight; eat a low-fat, high-fiber diet; limit alcohol intake; and get regular exercise.

Early detection is crucial in the successful treatment of breast cancer.

There are three breast exams that can help catch cancer in the early stages when it is easier to treat: breast self-exam, clinical breast exam and mammogram.

By doing BSE, you will be aware when something is changing. Every woman needs to know about the changes that need attention:

n Distinct lumps, either hard or soft.

n Changes in skin texture or color, including redness or "orange peel" skin.

n Thickening or puckering of the skin.

n Changes in nipple location.

n Bloody or cloudy nipple discharge.

n Breast sores that don't heal.

n Changes in breast shape such as depressions, bulges or flattened areas.

Consult your health-care professional for any of the above symptoms. Ask your health-care professional to teach you how to do your own BSE, or pick up a shower card that shows the technique.

Remember, 80 percent of breast lumps are not cancerous. Maintain your breast health as an important part of your life. You owe it to yourself, family and friends to do all you can to stay informed and have screenings on time. Early detection is the best protection, and that begins with you.

Jan Fritz, RN, is manager of Hospice of Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association and is an oncology nurse at Yampa Valley Medical Center.

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