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Early breast cancer detection is best defense

October 06, 2003|by Christine L. Moats

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Early detection is your best defense against this disease. To detect breast cancer early, the following steps are recommended by the American Cancer Society.

Women age 40 and older should have a screening mammogram every year. Mammograms can miss some cancers, but the technology remains an effective tool for early detection. Women in their 20s and 30s should have a clinical breast examination by a health professional every three years. After age 40, women should have an exam by a health professional every year.

According to Patty Hanson, director of the John R. Marsh Cancer Center, the exam should include instruction to ensure women are checking their breasts properly and know what to look for. Breast cancer risk is low for women in their 20s and gradually increases with age. Women should promptly report any new breast symptoms to their health professional.

Self-examination is an option for women beginning in their 20s. Women who regularly examine themselves are able to identify changes early and seek professional evaluation.

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If you do not have a primary physician and would like to have a breast health screening, the Maryland affiliate of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation offers free breast health clinics every two weeks in Washington County. During October, clinics will be held from 9:00 a.m. to noon Thursday, Oct. 9, at the Community Free Clinic and from 8:00 a.m. to noon Thursday, Oct. 16, at the H.W. Murphy Community Health Center. Both clinics are in downtown Hagerstown. For more information or to register for the clinics, contact the John R. Marsh Cancer Center at 301-665-4650.

Breast cancer will be a continuing topic in this month in this column with more information on detection, risk factors, prevention and resources.

- Source: American Cancer Society

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