DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH NEWS RELEASE
n observance of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a vital annual health campaign, the New Mexico Department of Health (DOH) is emphasizing the paramount importance of early detection and screenings in the fight against breast cancer.
Early detection dramatically enhances the effectiveness of treatment, increasing the chances of survival for most patients. DOH urges all New Mexicans to prioritize their health and schedule cancer screenings. An essential screening method is the mammogram, a high-resolution X-ray image of the breast. It stands as the most effective tool currently available for the early detection of breast cancer, capable of identifying abnormalities even before symptoms become apparent.
Dawn Sanchez, Acting Deputy Secretary and Chief Operating Officer for the New Mexico Department of Health, emphasized the significance of early detection: “As a breast cancer survivor, I am living proof that early detection and access to quality healthcare can save lives. I encourage everyone to prioritize their health through regular screenings, check-ups and self-breast exams.”
Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer diagnosed in women. About one in eight American women will face a breast cancer diagnosis during their lifetime. An estimated 297,790 invasive breast cancer cases will be identified in American women during 2023.
Although rare, men are also susceptible to breast cancer. In 2023, an estimated 2,800 American men will also face a breast cancer diagnosis.
Though not always associated with cancer, and some breast cancer cases don’t have symptoms, especially in the earliest stages of the disease, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides a list of symptoms that can occur with breast cancer:
- 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.
- Pain in any area of the breast.
The CDC also notes some of the main factors that can increase your level of risk for developing breast cancer, which include:
- Being biologically female.
- Being older, as most breast cancers are found in women who are 50 years in age or older.
- Having changes in your BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes.
- Receiving radiation therapy to the breast/chest as an adolescent or young adult.
- Having a family or personal history of breast cancer or breast problems (lumps, discharge).
There also are some factors that can lower your risk for getting breast cancer including being physically active, maintaining a healthy weight, and consuming little to no alcohol. If you are on a hormone replacement therapy plan or birth control method, ask your doctor about breast cancer related risks.
It’s important to talk with a doctor about your personal level of risk for breast cancer to make an informed decision about when you should start screening and how often you should be screened. People at higher risk may start screening at a younger age.
Jodi McGinnis Porter, Communications Director for DOH and a breast cancer survivor, highlighted the role of determination and early detection in overcoming breast cancer: “Breast cancer survivors exemplify the power of determination and early detection. Our message is clear: with the right care, a positive mindset and a sense of humor, we can conquer this challenge. The key is early detection and staying up-to-date with mammograms.”
For individuals with limited or no health insurance who are concerned about the cost of mammograms, DOH offers assistance through the Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program. Call the toll-free hotline at 1-833-525-1811 to find a participating medical provider in your area. Eligible individuals are those with low income and limited or no health insurance. Women including transgender women, and transgender men may receive free breast cancer screening including a mammogram. The hotline provides services in English, Spanish, and other languages.
More information on the program is available at: https://www.nmhealth.org/about/phd/pchb/bcc.
Breast cancer causes around 43,700 deaths per year in America. It’s important to promote awareness of the disease and continue to encourage early detection through regular screening with mammography.