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Health agencies targeting breast cancer awareness

Posted: Thursday, October 17, 2002

The city of Kenai will join the nation in declaring October as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Friday as National Mammography Day, according to a proclamation issued Wednesday by Mayor John Williams.

About 203,500 cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in women this year and another 1,500 cases will be diagnosed in men, he said. More than 40,000 people die of the disease each year.

"Early detection and prompt treatment significantly reduce the death rate," Williams said. "And we know that mammograms are the single most effective means of early detection."

According to the American Cancer Society, regular mammograms -- X-rays of breast tissue to detect lumps and irregularities -- can reduce the breast cancer mortality rate by 30 to 60 percent.

The society recommends that women 40 and older have mammograms and clinical breast exams once a year. Women ages 20 to 39 also should have clinical breast exams every three years and conduct breast self-exams once a month, according to the society's Web page.

Women who exhibit symptoms of breast cancer -- including swelling, skin irritation, nipple pain, discharge or a lump under the arm -- also should see a doctor immediately.

"In this day and age, there is more and more awareness of what can be done," Williams said. "But it takes the awareness of everybody."

He said that thanks to Central Peninsula General Hospital and the Kenai Public Health Center the central peninsula has more facilities than ever to provide early detection of the disease and awareness is improving.

Area health agencies are offering a number of promotions this month to recognize the importance of breast cancer awareness and early detection, said Bonnie Nichols, CPGH director of marketing and public relations.

The CPGH oncology department will host a punch and cookie party from 1 to 3 p.m. Friday with prizes for those who have had mammograms or scheduled appointments this year. The department also will provide free clinical breast exams without appointments throughout the day.

In addition, the Kenai Public Health Center is offering an incentive for women to get mammograms this month. Each patient who has the breast X-ray in October also will be entitled to a free dexascan, which measures bone density and osteoporosis risk. This is the first year this technology has been available on the peninsula and it is offered only at the center.

Also this month, the hospital is offering a series of women's health lectures. Tonight, a physical therapist will discuss osteoporosis and balance disorders from 5:30 to 6:30 in the Borealis room. The presentation is open to the public.

A low income level is no reason to forgo health care. A number of programs offer ways to help pay for breast cancer detection and treatment:

Medicare, Medicaid and most private health plans cover all or part of the cost of regular mammograms.

The National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program also makes mammograms more available to women without health insurance. To find out where to get a free or low-cost mammogram in Alaska, call (800) 478-2221.

National programs also can help low-income women pay for cancer treatment programs. For more information, call the Centers for Disease Control toll-free at (888) 842-6355 or visit www.cdc.gov/cancer.



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