National Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Once Is Not Enough

October 2009 marks the twenty-forth year of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM). The first NBCAM program took place in October 1985 as a weeklong event to fill the information void in public communication about breast cancer. The founding members of the Board of Sponsors, the American Academy of Family Physicians, AstraZeneca Healthcare Foundation and CancerCare, Inc., distributed brochures, spoke to news reporters, and testified before a U.S. Congressional committee about the crucial need for widespread access to mammography.

Today the National Breast Cancer Awareness Month organization is comprised of several national public service organizations, professional medical associations, and government agencies working in partnership to build breast cancer awareness, share information and provide access to screening services.

October is designated as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, however, at NBCAM, breast cancer awareness and education is a year-round mission.
Since 1985, mammography rates have more than doubled for women age 50 and older and breast cancer deaths have declined. 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. Women age 65 and older are less likely to get mammograms than younger women, even though breast cancer risk increases with age. Risk factors include:

  • Age. The risk of breast cancer increases, as women grow older. The risk is especially high for women age 60 and older. Breast cancer is uncommon in women younger than 35, although it does occur.
  • Personal History. Women who have had breast cancer and women with a history of breast disease may develop it again.
  • Family History. The risk of getting breast cancer increases for a woman whose mother, sister, daughter, or two or more close relatives have had the disease.

Mammography screening remains the single most effective method to detect breast cancer early. The earlier it is detected, the better the outcome. A diagnosis of breast cancer is alarming, but the good news is that most women recover from it. Improvements in breast cancer detection have helped to limit the harmful potential of this disease. In fact, during the last decade, the majority of breast cancers reported in the U.S. were small, very treatable, early-stage tumors. Overall, about 83 percent of women survive breast cancer, as shown by recent 5-year survival statistics. These numbers show that the likelihood of beating breast cancer is good, when detected and treated in the early stages.

“If all women age 40 and older took advantage of early detection methods – mammography plus clinical breast exam – breast cancer death rates would drop much further, up to 30 percent,” said Margaret Alvarez, RN, MSN, ACNP-BC, Ministry Medical Group - Woodruff.  “The key to mammography screening is that it be done routinely – once is not enough.”

During National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Ministry Medical Group encourages women to sign-up, receive, or make a commitment to get a mammogram. For more information about breast cancer awareness, visit To schedule an appointment with a Ministry Medical Group provider call 715.477.3000 in Eagle River or 715.356.8920 in Woodruff.

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