Valentine’s Day is an occasion in which many people celebrate and show their love for their special “valentine” by sending cards, candy, flowers, or gifts. Hearts, red and pink colors, images of cupid, cupid’s bows and arrows all symbolize the feeling of love, romance, appreciation and friendship. For some women, Valentine’s Day is a day in which they want to feel extra loved, appreciated and special. Women can achieve these feelings, not by anticipating a gift from someone else, but by giving themselves a gift – a mammogram.
A mammogram is an x-ray-like scan of the breast. It is used to study normal and abnormal structures within the breasts. A screening mammogram is used to look for breast cancer in women who do not have symptoms. A diagnostic mammogram is used to diagnose or rule out breast cancer in women who do have breast symptoms.
Two main risk factors for developing breast cancer are being a woman and getting older. The older a woman is, the more likely she is to develop breast cancer. However, women should take the time to have their clinical breast exam and mammogram to detect breast cancer earlier when it may be most treatable.
Women should talk with their health care provider to determine when to begin and how often to have a mammogram. It is also important for women to be aware of what is normal for them and see their health care provider if they notice any breast changes. These changes could include a lump in or near the breast or underarm area, a change in size or shape of the breast, abnormal discharge from the nipple, or a change in the color, feel, or texture of the skin of the breast, areola, or nipple (dimpled, puckered, scaly).
Getting clinical breast exams and mammograms regularly may be a challenge for some women. NC BCCCP, North Carolina Breast and Cervical Cancer Control Program, may provide a way to pay for clinical breast exams and mammograms for eligible North Carolina women ages 40 through 64. NC BCCCP helps women who are uninsured or underinsured, are without Medicare Part B or Medicaid and are financially eligible. For example, a woman with a family of two – her husband and herself – can have an income of up to $39,825 a year and qualify for the BCCCP Program.
Early detection is the best protection. Show yourself some love and give yourself a mammogram this Valentine’s Day. It could be the gift that saves your life! For more information on breast cancer, visit www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer. For more information on NC BCCCP, call Sampson County Health Department at 910-592-1131 ext. 4214 or visit http://bcccp.ncdhhs.gov/. To see if you qualify for the BCCCP Program or to schedule an appointment, call the Sampson County Department at 910-592-1131, extension 4001 or 4220.
Luke Smith is the public health educator at the Sampson County Health Department.