Early detection key to survival

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 15, 2002

Breast cancer will affect more than 200,000 women in this nation in 2002 and take the lives of more than 40,000 of them, according to estimates from the American Cancer Society.

In Dallas County alone, estimates are that 32 women will contract the disease.

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It is designed not only to make people aware that breast cancer is the second most common cancer found in women in the United States, but to help them learn how to fight the disease.

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Although the number of cases in which breast cancer is detected in its early stages has increased over the years, there are still some women who become frightened at the thought of mammography &045;&045; the X-ray used in detecting tumors before they can be felt by hand.

Early detection is the key to survival in most cases.

As a woman grows older, she becomes more susceptible to acquiring the disease due to fluctuating estrogen levels and the &uot;breakdown&uot; of the immune system. This is also relatively true if the disease is genetic.

So steps in preventing or stopping the disease from spreading to other areas of the body, which lowers the recovery percentage, can be quite beneficial.

For women aged 40 and over, a baseline mammogram should be conducted once every two years, along with regular self- and clinical examinations, Vega said, and once a year for women 50 years of age or older, in conjunction with the other two types of detection methods.

Those who are younger than 40, should conduct a self-examination once a month along with a clinical examination during an annual check-up by their doctor. &uot;As long as something is being done on a regular manner,&uot; Vega confirmed.

Self-examinations are &uot;simple,&uot; Vega said. Sometimes he hears women say, &uot;’I don’t know what it (lump) feels like,’&uot; but once an woman becomes more familiar with her body, she will be able to know if something’s doing wrong more than the doctor would know.

Vega emphasizes that women should understand that breast cancer is curable in most people, especially if caught in its early stages.