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Health officials: 'Focus attention on early detection'

Officials with the Georgia Department of Community Health (DCH) are campaigning to make more Georgians aware of the importance of breast self-examinations, and mammograms, in the early detection of breast cancer.

"As breast cancer rates decline, Georgians should continue to get regular mammograms, and conduct monthly self-exams," said Dr. Kimberly Redding, director of DCH's Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Programs. "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."

Health officials have been encouraging residents to be proactive in their breast health throughout October, also known as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Performing monthly breast-self exams and getting mammograms regularly can help improve life expectancy from breast cancer for women and men, according to Ravae Graham, public health communications manager with the Georgia Department of Community Health.

About 76 percent of women, age 40 years and older, had a mammogram within the last two years, said Graham, who cited the Georgia Cancer Registry. She said screening prevalence in Georgia is similar to the United State's prevalence of 76.5 percent.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that 191,410 women were diagnosed with breast cancer, and 40,820 women died from breast cancer in 2006. It is the latest data that affirms the disease is the second-most common cancer in women in the United States.

The CDC lists common breast-cancer symptoms that residents can look for during their self-examinations or mammograms. The symptoms include:

• New lump in the breast or underarm (armpit);

• Thickening or swelling of part of the breast;

• Irritation or dimpling of breast skin;

• Redness or flaky skin in the nipple area, or the breast;

• Pulling in of the nipple, or pain in the nipple area;

• Nipple discharge other than breast milk, including blood;

• Any change in the size or the shape of the breast;

• And pain in any area of the breast.

For more information on breast cancer, visit www.georgiahealthinfo.gov.