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Early is detection key to combating breast cancer

JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii (AFNS) -- October is national Breast Cancer Awareness Month and 15th Medical Group personnel here have launched a campaign to educate Airmen about the disease.

According to Staff Sgt. Jennifer Ferguson, the 15th Medical Group Women's Health Flight NCO in charge, early detection is the best protection from breast cancer.

The American Cancer Society cites breast cancer as the second leading cause of cancer death in women, noting that about one in eight women in the U.S. will develop invasive breast cancer during their lifetime. Ferguson reminds women that it's their responsibility to take a proactive role in their health care.

"Women in their 20s and 30s should have a clinical breast exam performed by a health professional every three years during their well-woman exam," she said. "Monthly self-exams are recommended for women starting in their 20s because it is a way for women to notice if any breast changes occur, in which case they should report it to their health professional right away."

In addition to monthly self-exams, women over the age of 40 are encouraged to have a yearly mammogram and clinical breast exam.

"When found early, the five-year survival rate for breast cancer is 96 percent," Ferguson said.

Though breast cancer is widely thought to be a disease that affects only women, men should also educate themselves on the disease. According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer affects about one in 1,000 men.

"Men should do checks too," said Lt. Col. Toneka Machado, the 15th MDG chief nurse. "The earlier anyone can detect it, the better the prognosis."

Though October is officially recognized as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Machado said preventative care and early detection should be a priority all year.

"So many women are uncomfortable with the idea of breast cancer or they are uncomfortable talking about it in general," she said. "Some people think because there's no family history they are not at risk, but don't think it can't happen to you. Breast cancer is very real and it affects all parts of our society both male and female. These are the things we want to bring awareness to."

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