News From Terre Haute, Indiana

October 15, 2013

Officials push for breast cancer screenings


Special to the Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer among females in Indiana, excluding skin cancers, with approximately 4,400 cases in the state each year.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and state health officials are encouraging Hoosier women to get screened.

“Regular screenings are important to detecting breast cancer,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. William VanNess. “Beginning at age 50, women should have a mammogram every year or two. Talk to your doctor to determine your risks and the benefit of screenings.”

Several risk factors contribute to breast cancer. Women have a much greater risk of developing breast cancer than do males, and that risk increases with age. Additional risk factors include:

n Genetics. People who have had two or more first-degree relatives who have been diagnosed with breast cancer have an increased risk. Additionally, breast cancer risk increases if someone has a family member who carries the BRCA 1 or 2 genes, which account for 5 to 10 percent of breast cancer cases.

• Race. In Indiana, during 2007-2011, the breast cancer incidence rates for African-American and white women were similar, but the mortality rate for African- American women was 39 percent higher than for whites. This increased risk can partially be attributed to African-American women being diagnosed with more aggressive forms of breast cancer or at later stages.

• Estrogen. Women who started menstruation before age 12 or menopause after age 55 might be at increased risk as a result of a higher lifetime exposure to estrogen.

• Pregnancy and breastfeeding history. There are studies that show that women who have not had children, had their first child after age 30 or have not breastfed might have an increased risk of developing breast cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, some research indicates that for each year a mother breastfeeds her child, her relative risk for developing breast cancer is reduced by 4.3 percent.

• Hormone Replacement Therapy. Using HRT can increase a woman’s risk of developing and dying from breast cancer. This risk can be increased after just two years of using HRT.

• Alcohol. Drinking alcohol has been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer, and the risk increases with every drink consumed per day.   

• Overweight and obesity. Being overweight, especially post-menopause, can increase your risk of developing breast cancer. The more body fat a woman has, the higher her estrogen levels typically are, increasing her risk of developing breast cancer.

The early stages of breast cancer typically show no symptoms. However, as the cancer progresses, some symptoms may be noticed.

These can include: a lump or thickened breast tissue; changes in breast size or shape; changes in the texture of the skin of the breast or nipple, including dimpling or puckering; and nipple discharge, especially if the discharge is bloody. Contact your health care provider immediately if you have any of these symptoms.

“Early detection of breast cancer is critical because it gives a woman her best chance at beating it,” VanNess said. “The five-year survival rate for localized breast cancer, which is simply cancer that has not spread to lymph nodes or other locations outside the breast, is 98 percent.”

The Indiana State Department of Health Indiana Breast and Cervical Cancer Program provides access to breast and cervical cancer screenings, diagnostic testing and treatment for underserved and underinsured women. Eligibility for the program is determined by age, income and family size.

For more information and to check eligibility, call 855-435-7178 or visit www.in.gov/isdh/24967.htm.

To learn more about breast cancer, including information on signs and symptoms, benefits of early detection and behaviors that can help decrease risk, refer to the Indiana Cancer Facts and Figures 2012 report, a comprehensive report on the burden of cancer in Indiana, by visiting www.indianacancer.org.