Breast cancer is the leading cause of new cancer cases and the second leading cause of cancer deaths among Tennessee women, with approximately 5,000 new cases of breast cancer diagnosed each year in the state. This Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the Tennessee Department of Health reminds Tennesseans that early detection through regular screening and timely treatment can improve chances of survival of breast cancer.
“Most women who develop breast cancer have no risk factors, so it’s important for all women to have regular screenings,” said TDH Family Health and Wellness Deputy Medical Director Denise Werner, MD. “You can also take action to reduce your risk of breast and other cancers by eating healthy, getting regular physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight and abstaining from smoking.”
Tennesseans are fortunate to have the Tennessee Breast and Cervical Screening Program which provides breast and cervical screening services to uninsured and underinsured women. TBCSP also provides diagnostic testing for qualifying men and women. TBCSP strives to serve all Tennesseans through outreach and education activities. In 2018, TBCSP provided clinical services to more than 11,000 individuals across the state. Learn more about the program at www.tn.gov/health/health-program-areas/fhw/mch-cancer.html or contact your local health department for more information.
Breast Screening Recommendations
One in eight women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. Women should start conversations with a health care provider about screening mammograms at age 40 and continue through age 75. Current guidelines recommend women begin regular screening with mammograms by the age of 50, and the United States Preventive Service Task Force recommends screening with mammograms every other year for women of average risk for breast cancer. Depending on risk factors, some women may need to begin screening at an earlier age.
Risk factors for breast cancer include:
- Family history of breast cancer
- Being overweight, especially after menopause
- 50 years of age or older
- Previous personal history of cancer (especially breast or ovarian)
- Using hormone replacement therapy for an extended period of time
In addition to risk factors, it’s important for women to be aware of the many different signs and symptoms of breast cancer:
- Any change in size or shape of the breast
- Pain in any area of the breast
- Thickening or swelling of part of the breast
- Irritation or dimpling of breast skin
- Nipple discharge other than breast milk, including blood
- New lump in the breast or underarm (armpit)
While breast cancer impacts women of all ages, races and ethnicities, it does not always affect them equally. TDH data show that although the rate of new breast cancer cases is similar among black and white women in Tennessee, blacks are more likely to die of the disease.
“TDH is working to reduce this breast cancer disparity by increasing access and decreasing barriers to care including deployment of mobile mammography units to high-risk zip codes, adding screening sites and launching a pilot program focused on transportation assistance,” said TDH Office of Minority Health and Disparities Elimination Director Monique Anthony, MPH, CHES.
Talk with a health care provider about your risk for breast cancer, especially if a family member has had a breast cancer diagnosis. For more information, visit www.cdc.gov/cancer/dcpc/resources/features/breastcancerawareness/index.htm.