October is in the pink
October is breast cancer awareness month and supermarkets and TV screens are flushed with pink in support of the cause. Offering free screening mammograms for women over the age of 40, BreastScreen North Coast is encouraging women to get regular screenings, as detecting breast cancer early is crucial to surviving it.
Lismore Mayor Jenny Dowell knows the benefits of screening, after a mammogram with BreastScreen found a suspicious lump last year. Cr Dowell was then diagnosed with breast cancer, just four days after being elected.
“I'm so glad I kept that appointment in August last year. Like many women I didn't enjoy mammograms but a few minutes of discomfort was worth it for an early diagnosis, treatment and a speedy return to good health,” Cr Dowell said.
Breast cancer remains the most common cancer and one of the leading causes of cancer deaths amongst NSW women. One in nine women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime and each year more than 900 NSW women lose their battle with the disease.
The earlier cancers are detected, the better the treatment options and chances of survival. Now using computerised radiography equipment, BreastScreen can detect cancers the size of a grain of rice. Without screening, breast cancers are more likely to be felt or noticed when they are much larger, about the size of a small cherry.
The survival rate for breast cancer is 97% when detected early. However the chances of survival decrease as the cancer spreads, so early detection is vital.
Having survived breast cancer, Cr Dowell is now living life to the fullest again.
“I guarantee, it's better to know, deal with it and be a survivor. I urge women - don't put it off. Even if you are busy, make time to have a mammogram.”
Women aged 50 to 69 are particularly encouraged to have a mammogram every two years.
Younger women who have a family history of breast cancer are encouraged to see their GP to arrange a mammogram or an ultrasound. “Younger women's breasts are denser and mammograms often don't pick up cancers,” Melissa Rahmate, Health Promotion Officer at BreastScreen North Coast, said.
Appointments are available all year round at permanent screening sites in Uralba St, Lismore and Tweed Heads. To make it easier for women who work business hours, BreastScreen North Coast is also offering after hours screening appointments on Thursday nights and Saturdays.
A Mobile Breast Screening Unit is currently located in Evans Head and will be moving to Kyogle, Mummulgum, Bonalbo, Urbanville in November and then to Uki before the end of the year.
Appointments can be made by phoning 132 050, or 02 6622 1822 for women living in Tweed Heads.