With National Breast Cancer Awareness Month on the horizon for the month of October, it is important to remind women not only how to go about obtaining information and exams, but also when they should be ultra-conscious about breast exams and mammograms.
Dr. Jennifer Byrd, Chief Medical Officer for the Will County Community Health Center at the Health Department, says there’s a major factor that determines when women should start putting this on their schedule.
“We usually start mammograms at a certain age for women, which would be 40,” Dr. Byrd explained. “But there’s something else a lot of women may not know. And that is, if you have a history of breast cancer in your family, you need to start your mammograms 10 years prior to the youngest age any of your relatives were diagnosed. So if the youngest diagnosis age in your family is 45, you need to begin your mammograms at 35.”
Dr. Byrd says that for those with breast cancer history in their families, doctors will tell you after your initial exam how soon you need to return for your next exam and mammogram. Dr. Byrd says it is also important to note that while screenings for cervical cancer are usually stopped at age 65, and colonoscopies are usually stopped at age 74, regular breast cancer screenings must be done for the rest of your life.
The Community Health Center participates in the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program, which can provide for free mammograms. You are asked to call the Community Health Center for a general physical exam or breast exam and then find out if you qualify for the IBCCP program. You can call 815-727-8670, or go to willcountyhealth.org, select “Children and Families,” and click on “Community Health Center” for more information.
Dr. Byrd also pointed out some other sources for breast cancer treatment and screening information, such as through the National Breast Cancer Foundation website as NationalBreastCancer.org. She also recommends a trip to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, at CDC.gov. If you type “breast cancer what you need to know” in the search bar, you will be guided to the “What you Need to Know” page. You will find additional advice for situations such as not being able to afford a mammogram or not having insurance. Some informational podcasts are available as well.