Breast cancer screening, detection important for women and men

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - This year alone more than 230,000 women in the US will be diagnosed with breast cancer. As a nation we recognize breast cancer awareness in October.

For women the risk is one in eight and for men, the risk is growing. The American Cancer Society says South Carolina has one of the highest rates of breast cancer nationwide. That's why advocates say it's important to know your risk factors and get screened early.

At 48, and with a teenage son, Gina Reeves says she has a lot to live for, and now she is at the doctor's office for her yearly mammogram.

"Especially when you experience lumps or other problems. I have had issues in the past where I've had to come back for more work. Fortunately it's been good," Reeves said.

Medical experts recommend women begin yearly screening at age 40 and even earlier if a woman has a family history of the disease.

The procedure includes an x-ray of each breast, taking pictures both up and down and side to side, analysis by a doctor, and questions about your family health history.

The ACS says nearly 40,000 women die each year of breast cancer, and it's the most common type of cancer in women. That's why advocates say spreading awareness of early detection and screenings is so important.

"It can be very life-saving. The general number we throw out is 8 to 10 percent lifetime risk for all women. We also do a calculation based on the questions we ask women and we can do a calculate lifetime risk," Dr. Christopher Moses of Imaging Specialists in Mount Pleasant said.

The most common risk factors include: gender, genetics, age, being overweight, and chemical exposure

For women like Reeves, the annual mammogram helps give her peace of mind knowing if there are any problems it will be caught early, which increases survival rates.

"I don't have any family history of breast cancer, but you still have to be very conscious of it. It's very important for women everywhere no matter what your age," Reeves said.

Men also face a growing risk of the disease and the ACS says while it is rare in men it is deadly. More than 2100 men are expected to be diagnosed this year and about 450 will die from breast cancer.

To help spread the word, a local radiology company is offering free mammograms to women in need. Imaging Specialists of Mount Pleasant started "Mammo Mondays" giving uninsured women, age 40 and up, the screening for free. The procedure uses x-ray technology to check for abnormal tissue or lumps in the breasts. Statistics show a 98 percent survival rate of women diagnosed with breast cancer when caught early enough.

To apply for a free mammogram on a *Mammo Monday* during October you must be uninsured, age 40 or up, age 25 and up with family history, and live in the tri-county. Call  (843) 881-4020 to set up an appointment.

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