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Self-exams, mammograms cancer-fighting tools

By Maria-Jose Subiria

msubiria@news-daily.com

The Georgia Department of Community Health continues to implore the state's women -- and men -- to take charge of their breast health, particularly during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (October), according to a spokesperson for the department.

Ravae Graham said both men and women, who perform monthly breast self-exams, and regularly get mammograms, can assist in bettering their life expectancy from breast cancer, because early diagnosis leads to more effective treatment options.

"As breast cancer rates decline, Georgians should continue to get regular mammograms and conduct monthly self-exams," added Kimberly Redding, director of the Health Promotions and Disease Prevention Programs, for the Georgia Department of Community Health. "Early detection, through regular screenings, is the key to increasing the life expectancy of individuals diagnosed with breast cancer in our state and throughout the country."

Breast cancer is ranked second among the most common cancers in women living in the U.S., said Graham. It can cause changes in how the breast looks and feels, said the spokesperson. Mammograms and self-exams can detect changes and/or symptoms that will allow doctors to discover the cancer at an earlier stage, when treatment has the greatest chance of success.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Graham, the symptoms of breast cancer include:

* A new lump in the breast or underarm.

* Thickening or swelling of part of the breast.

* Irritation or dimpling of breast skin.

* Redness or flaky skin in the nipple area or the rest of the breast.

* Pulling in of the nipple, or pain in the nipple area.

* Nipple discharge, other than breast milk, including blood.

* Pain in the breast area.

Graham explained that, according to the Georgia Cancer Registry, 76 percent of women, ages 40 and up, had mammograms within the last two years.

"Screening prevalence in Georgia is similar to the United State's prevalence of 76.5 percent," said Graham.

She said that individuals, who would like more information on Georgia's Breast and Cervical Cancer program, should visit the Georgia Department of Community Health's web site, at www.health.state.ga.us/programs/bccp.

For more information about breast cancer, individuals should visit, www.georgiahealthinfo.gov.