Gov. Cooper has proclaimed October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, recognizing that one in eight women in North Carolina will develop breast cancer in their lifetime.
Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer for women in the United States, apart from skin cancer. While breast cancer related deaths have declined with advancements in treatment and care, it remains the second leading cause of cancer death in all women and the leading cause of cancer death in Hispanic women. The NC State Center for Health Statistics projects that in 2022, more than 11,723 women in North Carolina will be diagnosed with breast cancer, and over 1,472 will die from this disease.
Mammograms are the most effective screening tool to detect breast cancer early when it is easier to treat. Mammograms are X-ray pictures of your breasts that doctors use to look for early signs of breast cancer. Regular mammograms (also known as screening mammograms) can help doctors find breast cancer early, sometimes up to three years before it can be felt.
Medicare, Medicaid, and most private insurance companies cover screening mammograms as part of routine preventive care. If you are uninsured or underinsured, you may qualify for a free mammogram through the North Carolina Breast and Cervical Cancer Control Program (NC BCCCP). NC BCCCP provides free or low-cost breast and cervical cancer screenings and follow-up services to eligible women. NC BCCCP services are provided through multiple providers across North Carolina. Visit bcccp.dph.ncdhhs.gov/Eligibility.asp to find a provider near you.
Even with regular screening mammograms, it is important to talk to your doctor about your risk factors for developing breast cancer. The main risk factors for developing breast cancer include being a woman, being older (most breast cancers are found in women who are age 40 and up) and having changes in your BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene. The good news is that there are several things you can do to help lower your risk of developing breast cancer.
- Keep a healthy weight and exercise regularly.
- Don’t drink alcohol or limit the amount of alcohol you do drink.
- If you are taking hormone replacement therapy or birth control pills, ask your doctor about the risks.
- Breastfeed your baby/babies, if possible.
- If you have a family history of breast cancer or inherited changes in your BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, talk to your doctor about other ways to lower your risk.
Talk with your doctor about your risk factors. They can help you decide how often to get a screening mammogram. For more information about NC BCCCP, visit bcccp.dph.ncdhhs.gov.