Last updated: October 23. 2013 10:30AM - 1787 Views
Rachel Baldwin rbaldwin@civitasmedia.com

Barbara Van Zant and Chris Atkins, both members of the Williamson Woman's Club, are pictured as they conduct the candle lighting portion of the breast cancer luncheon.
Barbara Van Zant and Chris Atkins, both members of the Williamson Woman's Club, are pictured as they conduct the candle lighting portion of the breast cancer luncheon.
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WILLIAMSON - In an effort to boost public awareness of the importance of early detection in the fight against breast cancer, the Williamson Woman’s Club recently held a luncheon that featured a special guest speaker, as well as local officials and business leaders.

Williamson Mayor Darrin McCormick welcomed all those in attendance and thanked them for participating. The mayor praised the efforts of the Williamson Woman’s Club for their continued dedication, time and effort to host the special event.

Dr. Merse Turnquest, an Appalachian Regional Healthcare Obstetrician/Gynecologist served as guest speaker at the luncheon, and provided helpful information as to the signs of breast cancer, ways to help prevent the disease, the role that family history plays in increasing your chances of being diagnosed and the importance of exams and mammograms.

According to the speaker, breast cancer is the second most common cancer in women, with skin cancer claiming the number one slot. The chance of developing invasive breast cancer at some time in a woman’s life is a little less that a one in eight chance (twelve percent). The chance that a woman will die from breast cancer is one in thirty-five (about three percent).Men are also at risk for breast cancer, but the numbers are significantly lower.

All women are at risk, by simply being born a female. It’s unknown exactly what causes breast cancer but there is now testing in place to see if one carries the gene that increases your chance of getting a positive diagnosis (speak with your physician about these tests).

It is believed that women can make wise choices to lower their risk. However, those at risk do not always develop breast cancer while others who are in a lower risk division may be diagnosed with the disease. Most women with the disease have no risk factors, other than being a female and over the age of 40.

Women can lower their risk for breast cancer by making certain lifestyle changes. Hormone replacement therapy, alcohol consumption, the use of birth control pills, becoming overweight after menopause and lack of physical activity are all controllable risk factors. A doctor can assess a woman’s personal risk based on her family history and lifestyle, and recommend changes and/or early or additional cancer screenings or procedures. Turnquest emphasized the importance of remembering the phrase “the best protection is early detection”, and recommended that all women follow a schedule of breast cancer screenings. Early detection lowers the risk of death due to breast cancer by diagnosing the disease when it is in the first stages and is the most treatable.

Self-examination is recommended for women in their 20’s and once they reach the age of 30, they should have clinical breast exams once every three years. For those who are age 40 and above, mammograms and clinical breast exams should occur yearly. All women are not the same, so your physician may advise changes to the standard schedule based on your personal and family medical history. Many health experts recommend a monthly self-examination starting at the age of 20. If you choose to do this procedure, speak with your healthcare provider about demonstrating the proper technique at the time of your clinical breast exam.

Possible indications of breast cancer in women, as well as in men, are as follows:

A lump or swelling, which is usually (but not always) painless; skin dimpling or puckering; nipple retraction (turning inward); redness or scaling of the nipple or breast skin; and discharge from the nipple.

These signs do not always indicate cancer. However; see your doctor as soon as possible if you have any of the above symptoms or notice any changes in your breasts.

The American Cancer Society is available 24/7 to provide additional information should you request it, as well as support for those who may be diagnosed. You are urged to call 1-800-ACS-2345, or visit their website at www.cancer.org. All services they provide are free.

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