Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Memorial Hospital President Art Mathisen is surrounded by staffers standing in the shape of a ribbon in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. (COURTESY PHOTO)

To acknowledge Breast Cancer Awareness Month, The Conway Daily Sun is printing occasional stories related to breast cancer, including survivors’ own stories.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed among American women after skin cancer. The fact is that nearly one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some time during their lives.

Per the 2019 American Cancer Society Facts & Figures, an estimated 8,610 new cancer cases will occur in New Hampshire, and 1,330 female breast cases — up 530 total cases but down 30 breast cases from those estimated in 2018.

While the chance of a woman having invasive breast cancer during her life is about one in eight, according to breastcancer.org, the chance of dying from breast cancer is much less, and breast cancer death rates have been going down.

“This is mostly the result of finding the cancer earlier and better treatment options,” says Dr. Marni Madnick of Women’s Health at Memorial Hospital in North Conway.

“But we’d like to provide screening mammograms for even more women so we can add more people’s names to the list of survivors,” she said.

Across the United States, 60 percent of women over 40 and older had a mammogram in the past two years.

Messages of screening are still important. Women are busy. For some, balancing work and family life is a struggle, and finding the time to get a screening mammogram may be challenging.

Memorial Hospital recommends women discuss screening options with their primary care or women’s health-care providers. “

During the month of October, we promote awareness for screening and ways to stay healthy to control and prevent breast cancer risks,” Madnick said.

Mammograms are capable of detecting signs of breast abnormalities before symptoms occur, so it continues to be imperative that women are screened regularly to reduce their risks.

Recommendations for women, who are at average risk, are to:

• Practice self-exams to maintain breast self-awareness.

• Consider annual clinical breast exam with primary care or women’s health-care provider.

• Receive routine screening mammograms. At age 40, discuss screening options with provider, and be prepared to share questions and family history.

For screening purposes, a woman is considered to be at average risk if she doesn’t have a personal history of breast cancer, a strong family history of breast cancer or a genetic mutation known to increase risk of breast cancer and has not had chest radiation therapy before the age of 30.

Mammography services at Memorial Hospital are administered within the Radiology Department, under the management of Radiologic Technologist Sherry Cormier and Radiologist Dr. John Kustan with over 35 years of experience reading mammograms.

The department has three mammographers with over 80 years’ experience combined.

The New Hampshire's Breast and Cervical Cancer Program provides free breast cancer screenings to women age 21-64 who have no health insurance or have insurance that does not pay for screening tests and with family incomes at or below 250 percent of the Federal Poverty Level.

Income guidelines are updated each year in February.

The screenings are offered at Memorial Hospital and many other health care sites, including hospitals and physician offices.

Memorial Hospital uses a completely digital imaging platform, so it is possible to share images immediately with providers.

The hospital is also a Softer Mammogram Provider. MammoPad breast cushions are soft foam pads that can help relieve the discomfort many women feel during a mammogram. The cushion is placed on the surface of the image detector, providing a softer, more comfortable mammogram.

Since MammoPad breast cushions provide a warmer, softer and more comfortable mammogram, women are generally more relaxed during the exam. This enables the technologist to get more breast tissue in the image, enabling a more comprehensive image with confident results.

State-of-the-art Hologic Selenia Dimensions 3-D imaging equipment was added three years ago. Hologic was the first company approved by the FDA in 3-D mammography, and it's the only mammogram FDA approved as superior for women with dense breasts, says Kendra Griffin, Multi Modality Technician at Memorial Hospital.

According to Griffin, 3-D mammography detects 20-65 percent more invasive breast cancers, can reduce callbacks by up to 40 percent and is a superior exam to a conventional 2-D without significant increase in radiation dose.”

Memorial Hospital is part of MaineHealth, New England’s largest integrated health system, and the MaineHealth Cancer Care Network supported by The Harold Alfond Foundation. This ensures that when needed, patients with more complex cancer diagnoses have access to expert advanced cancer treatment and specialists.

To schedule an appointment with a provider to discuss breast health care, contact your provider at Memorial Hospital, (603) 356-5461.

If you would like to submit a personal story related to how breast cancer has affected you or a family member, please email to margaret@conwaydailysun.com or terry@conwaydailysun.com.

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