National Breast Cancer Awareness Month celebrates 21 years

October marks the 21st year of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Since the program began in 1985, mammograms rates have more than doubled for women age 50 and older (from 25 percent in 1987 to 69 percent in 1998), and breast cancer deaths have declined by 1.6 percent between1989 and 1995.

This is exciting progress, but there are still women who do not take advantage of early detection at all, and others who do not get screening mammograms and clinical breast exams at regular intervals.

The Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer program at the Winnebago County Health Department screens approximately 850 women each year for breast and cervical cancer.

The program offers free mammograms, breast exams, pelvic exams and Pap tests to eligible women who meet income guidelines. The program is funded by CDC and the Illinois Public Health Department. Since the program was launched in Winnebago County in1999, over 3,500 women have participated in the program from Winnebago, Boone, and DeKalb counties.

Women age 65 and older are less likely to get mammograms than younger women (55 percent vs. 65 percent for women age 40-49), even though breast cancer risk increases with age.

Hispanic women have fewer mammograms (63 percent) than Caucasian women (74 percent) and African American women (76 percent).

Women below poverty level are less likely than women at higher incomes to have had a mammogram within the past two years (44 percent versus 65 percent, respectively).

Mammography use increased between 1989 and 1997 for all groups except American Indians and Alaska Natives.

American Indian and Alaska Native women experienced a 4.0 percent annual increase in breast cancer death rates.

“If all women age 40 and older took advantage of early detection methods – mammography plus clinical breast exams—breast cancer death rate would drop much further, up to 30 percent,” says Joyce Bass, R.N., M. P.H., Clinical Services director . “The key to mammography screening is that is that it be done routinely – once is not enough.”

To inquire into the Breast and Cervical screening program at the Winnebago County Health Department, call 972-7250.

From the Oct. 19-25, 2005, issue

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