The Medical Minute: Make mammograms a priority

By Michelle Farnan

Having just celebrated Mother's Day, it's a good time for all of us to reflect on the women we love. Although you might not think of this first, did you or that special woman in your life have her mammogram in the past year? If she is at least 40 years old, it’s time.

Mammograms are still the best method for early detection of breast cancer. The new digital mammogram uses less radiation than film mammography and many new products have made this important screening much easier. Mammo Pads and the more comfortable tilt compression have women saying, “That mammogram didn’t hurt.” Mammograms allow doctors to see abnormalities in the breast years before they can be felt during an examination. Finding a breast cancer early lowers the risk of dying from the disease by 25 percent or more. According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer remains the most common cancer in women next to skin cancer. Thanks to improved technology for finding breast cancer early and significant treatment advances, years of survivorship are on the rise.

As the number of women living with breast cancer increases, we are learning more about the long lasting emotional effect of a cancer diagnosis and, perhaps most importantly, the impact breast cancer has on the entire family. Multiple appointments with different providers, side effects of treatment and possible economic hardships due to loss of income and medical bills can significantly disrupt the family routine and standard of living.

It’s hard enough to manage these changes as adults, but what about our children and grandchildren? The American Cancer Society estimates that more than 341,000 adults between the ages of 25-54, the parents of more than 641,000 children, will be diagnosed with some type of invasive cancer each year. The emotional impact on a child can increase anxiety levels, behavioral problems and poor performance in school. All of these problems ultimately add to the distress of the cancer patient and could negatively affect overall outcomes.

Although there are multiple support groups available for adults, there are limited resources available for children whose parent or grandparent has cancer. The Penn State Hershey Breast Center has implemented a program called CLIMB® (Children’s Lives Include Moments of Bravery). The Children’s Treehouse Foundation developed the six-week program to specifically address the fears and anxiety of children whose parent has cancer and provide parents with the necessary tools to improve family communication during cancer treatment. This program will be offered several times each year to family’s living with all types of cancer.

Yes, Mother’s Day is near…take time to enjoy the outdoors, take care of those you love and remember early detection is truly the best protection for both you and your family.

For more information please visit us online Penn State Hershey Breast Center or to schedule a mammogram, call 717-531-3799.

Michelle Farnan, RN, MSN, OCN, Penn State Hershey Breast Center, Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center

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Last Updated May 11, 2009