Breast Cancer Awareness: A Pivotal Conversation
The National Breast Care Foundation says that in 2021 alone, an estimated 281,550 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women in the U.S. as well as 49,290 new cases of non-invasive breast cancer. It is important to share and shed light on the sobering statistics of breast cancer, especially as we approach Breast Cancer Awareness Month this October.
As with any cancer, no one knows the exact cause for its development. Though treatments are increasing and becoming more effective as technology advances, Jennifer Hawasli, MD and Jodie Barr, DO shared preventative health measures you can take to help decrease your chances of developing breast cancer.
Dr. Hawasli, a fellowship-trained breast surgeon with Lawrence Breast Specialists, said one of the most important things you can do at home is to give yourself a self-breast exam once a month. And yes, men, that means you too. Though breast cancer is less likely in men, the myth that men cannot develop breast cancer is simply not true.
Dr. Jennifer Hawasli
“Self-breast exams are a wonderful way to know your body and track any differences,” Dr. Hawasli said. “Breasts are naturally lumpy and bumpy, so anything or any lump you notice is different should be checked out, even if it may be nothing. The rule of thumb is to check up to your collarbone.”
She said many times, there is no pain associated with cancerous spots. Pain may actually be a good indicator that the spot is in fact not cancerous, though you need to have it looked at by a physician no matter what.
“Only 1 in 10 breast cancers hurt,” Dr. Hawasli said. “If you notice a bump, do not panic. It may be benign and not cancerous, but the sooner a cancer is caught, the more treatable it is. A breast cancer caught in its early stages has a 90% survival rate, so we really want to catch it early.”
She said that mammogram screening should begin at age 40, unless you have a family history of breast cancer. In this case, it is recommended you start earlier at 35, or, depending on the type of history, starting even earlier than this may be advised.
Dr. Barr, an oncologist with the LMH Health Cancer Center, said that no matter what, there should be no cost barrier to receiving the screenings you need.
“All women should be able to get their scheduled mammograms without worry about cost,” she said. “At LMH Health, we will have screening events and offer mammogram vouchers for patients so that there is no barrier with cost for getting the proper screenings you need.”
Another leading factor to cancers Dr. Barr said is family history. Family history is a big factor for developing breast and ovarian cancers and the list keeps growing for cancers that can be heavily related to family history.
“Since family history is so important, we now offer genetic testing for our patients and community members,” she said. “We are at a point in time where technology and screenings have never been so advanced. We work together to not only bring you the latest and greatest in care and treatment, but to bring you cancer care through a team approach. All care should be collaborative – the clinic at LMH Health will work together for your care, and with you and your team at home to get the care you need. Each of our doctors at the LMH Health Cancer Center is highly specialized and we provide multidisciplinary care close to home. As we know, those who receive care close to home actually have better outcomes and get more time in their days back.”
Dr. Barr said the patient care goes far beyond just visiting the clinic for treatment. The team will also collaborate with you and your family through social work, genetic testing and getting you into our survivorship program after your treatment has ended. The team works for you and takes a whole person, and whole family, approach.
Dr. Jodie Barr
“A cancer diagnosis is possibly one of the most anxiety provoking moments in a person’s life,” Dr. Barr said. “At LMH Health we are fortunate that our processes can be quick and streamlined so patients can have their answers quicker and, in most cases, right away. There is not a big delay in between screening and diagnosis. Our team understands the stress this can put on patients and their families and we are here for them every step of the way.”
LMH Health is accredited by the Commission on Cancer (CoC), a quality program of the American College of Surgeons. This accreditation, which is only awarded to institutions that can demonstrate a multidisciplinary approach to treating cancer as a complex group of diseases, comes after a rigorous, two-year survey process that monitored protocols, treatments and outcomes in LMH Health’s cancer care units.
“We are thrilled to be CoC certified,” Dr. Barr said. “This gives us even more tools, resources and learning opportunities to advance our care for our patients. At the end of the day, our patient and their health will always be our number one priority. Whether you have been diagnosed with stage one, two, three or four breast cancer, we want you to know we are always here for you. We will fight with you each step of the way and with advancement in cancer care every day, we are more hopeful than ever with our treatments. Throughout your journey, you will never walk alone."
Cost should never be a barrier to care—if you or someone you know need assistance, the LMH Health Foundation offers vouchers to cover the cost. Just call patient accounts at 505-5775. We’re grateful to the many donors who support this initiative. Last year, we issued 75 donor-funded mammogram vouchers for patients who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford cancer screening. If you’d like to make a gift to cover the cost of a mammogram for a patient in need, please click the link below.
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