Arm-up with knowledge: October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- Breast cancer knows no boundaries, it is estimated that 192,370 women and 1,910 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009, according to the American Cancer Society.

Whether you are a female or male, every Team Whiteman member is encouraged to arm themselves with knowledge this month, October, National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, that may potentially save their life or that of others.

The 509th Medical Group currently has an information-station at the base clinic with important breast cancer awareness information, pamphlets, pink pins and other take-aways, to help in the fight against breast cancer.
Breast cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the breast. It is considered a heterogeneous disease--differing by individual, age group, and even the kinds of cells within the tumors themselves, according to the National Breast Cancer Foundation.
"Early detection is the best means for improving the chances that breast cancer can be diagnosed and treated successfully," said Lt. Col. Carol Nelson, 509th Medical Operations Squadron women's health nurse practitioner. "The goal of screening exams for early breast cancer detection is to find cancers before they start to cause symptoms."

Screening refers to tests and exams used to find a disease, such as cancer, in people who do not have any symptoms.

"Early detection means using an approach that allows earlier diagnosis of breast cancer than otherwise might have occurred," said Colonel Nelson. "Breast cancers that are found because they are causing symptoms tend to be larger and are more likely to have already spread beyond the breast.

"In contrast, breast cancers found during screening exams are more likely to be smaller and still confined to the breast," she continued. "The size of a breast cancer and how far it has spread are some of the most important factors in predicting the prognosis (outlook) of a woman with this disease."

Women can take control of their healthcare by developing an early detection plan and encouraging others to do the same. An Early Breast Cancer Detection Plan includes the following, according to the National Breast Cancer Awareness Foundation:

- Beginning at age 20: Performing breast self-exams and looking for any signs of change.
- Age 20 to 39: Scheduling clinical breast exams every three years.
- By the age of 40: Having a baseline mammogram and annual clinical breast exams.
- Ages 40 to 49: Having a mammogram every one to two years depending on previous findings.
- Ages 50 and older: Having a mammogram every year.
- All Ages: -- Recording personal exams, mammograms and doctors' appointments on a calendar or in a detailed file. 
  --Maintaining a healthy weight, following a low-fat diet, getting regular exercise, quitting smoking, and reducing alcohol consumption. 

"Most doctors feel that early detection tests for breast cancer save thousands of lives each year, and that even many more lives could be saved if even more women and their health care providers took advantage of these tests," said Colonel Nelson.

Although women are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer, men can develop breast cancer as well. It is usually detected (found) in men between 60 and 70 years of age. The evaluation of men with breast masses is similar to that in women, including mammography. Survival for men with breast cancer is similar to that for women with breast cancer when their stage at diagnosis is the same, according to the National Cancer Institute. Breast cancer in men, however, is often diagnosed at a later stage. Cancer found at a later stage may be less likely to be cured.

Bottom-line - early detection and awareness are key in the fight against breast cancer.

It is estimated that 40,170 women and 440 men will die of breast cancer in the next year, according to the American Cancer Society. Team Whiteman members are encouraged to act now in the fight against breast cancer arming themselves with knowledge and taking advantage of their early detection options on base. For more information visit the Whiteman Clinic.