By Alyssa Schnugg
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and while the month may almost be over, spreading awareness about breast cancer happens all year at the Baptist Cancer Center in Oxford.
However, oncology nurse navigator Ginny Brown and her team make sure anyone walking through the doors of the Center in October is aware that it’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
In the lobby, there are several displays proudly showing off the color pink, which is associated with Breast Cancer Awareness. There are tables with information about breast cancer, including self-help guides on the proper way to self-examine, when women should start getting mammograms and who might be at risk.
This year’s theme was “Give Breast Cancer the Boot – There’s a New Sheriff in Town.” Some employees created painted message boards depicting the theme.
“The whole clinic participates in this,” Brown said. “Other staff members will help put up the balloons and help with the construction. Our goal is just to reach as many people as we can, especially throughout this month.”
Brown said she believes one of the biggest misconceptions about breast cancer is that someone in your family has to have had it for you to be at risk.
“Most believe it has to be genetic,” she said. “About 80 percent of breast cancer patients don’t have any family history of it. So just about 20 percent are genetically disposed.”
One of the most important factors in surviving breast cancer is finding it and getting it diagnosed as early as possible. Monthly self-examinations and yearly mammograms are the best ways to make that happen, Brown said.
“The American Cancer Society states that around age 40 to 45, you should start getting a yearly mammogram,” she said. “But if you have a family history, then you should talk to your doctor about when you should start getting your mammograms.”
Men can also get breast cancer. About 1 out of every 100 breast cancers diagnosed in the United States is found in a man.
“We’re treating several men right now with breast cancer,” Brown said.
While most insurance companies pay for mammograms, not everyone has insurance. And even those who do, travel expenses for those with breast cancer to get their treatments aren’t normally covered. To help with those expenses, the Oxford Fire Department is raffling off a pink Bullard fire helmet. All proceeds will go to Baptist Cancer Center and will help pay for free mammograms and travel expenses for cancer patients.
Tickets are $5 each or five for $20 and can be purchased through Monday.
The helmet will come with a custom front with the winner’s name on it.
Tickets can be purchased at OFD Station 1 (399 McElroy Drive), through any OFD firefighter with cash, check, or Venmo @firefighter-community-funds.
The ticket will be drawn live on Tuesday on the OFD’s Facebook page.
Risk factors for Breast Cancer via the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Risk Factors You Cannot Change
- Getting older. The risk for breast cancer increases with age. Most breast cancers are diagnosed after age 50.
- Genetic mutations. Women who have inherited changes (mutations) to certain genes, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2, are at higher risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
- Reproductive history. Starting menstrual periods before age 12 and starting menopause after age 55 expose women to hormones longer, raising their risk of getting breast cancer.
- Having dense breasts. Dense breasts have more connective tissue than fatty tissue, which can sometimes make it hard to see tumors on a mammogram. Women with dense breasts are more likely to get breast cancer.
- Personal history of breast cancer or certain non-cancerous breast diseases. Women who have had breast cancer are more likely to get breast cancer a second time.
- Family history of breast or ovarian cancer. A woman’s risk for breast cancer is higher if she has a mother, sister, or daughter (first-degree relative) or multiple family members on either her mother’s or father’s side of the family who have had breast or ovarian cancer. Having a first-degree male relative with breast cancer also raises a woman’s risk.
- Previous treatment using radiation therapy. Women who had radiation therapy to the chest or breasts (for instance, treatment of Hodgkin’s lymphoma) before age 30 have a higher risk of getting breast cancer later in life.
- Exposure to the drug diethylstilbestrol (DES).
Risk Factors You Can Change
- Not being physically active. Women who are not physically active have a higher risk of getting breast cancer.
- Being overweight or having obesity after menopause. Older women who are overweight or have obesity have a higher risk of getting breast cancer than those at a healthy weight.
- Taking hormones. Some forms of hormone replacement therapy (those that include both estrogen and progesterone) taken during menopause can raise risk for breast cancer when taken for more than five years. Certain oral contraceptives (birth control pills) also have been found to raise breast cancer risk.
- Reproductive history. Having the first pregnancy after age 30, not breastfeeding, and never having a full-term pregnancy can raise breast cancer risk.
- Drinking alcohol. Studies show that a woman’s risk for breast cancer increases with the more alcohol she drinks.