Early detection is key to fight against breast cancer

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Colin Cates
  • 49th Wing Public Affairs
Roughly one in eight women will develop some form of invasive breast cancer in their lifetime according to the American Cancer Society. This amounts to breast cancer being the second most diagnosed cancer among American women. National public service organizations, professional medical associations and government agencies work together to promote breast cancer awareness, share information and provide greater access to services.

In 2012, approximately 39,510 women are expected to die from breast cancer according to the American Cancer Society. The battle against this disease may often end with doctors, medicine and treatments, but it starts with education. Breast cancer is caused when abnormal cells in the breast grow out of control. Symptoms of the disease can include a change in how the breast or nipple feels or a change in the breast or nipple appearance. While these symptoms may not always point to cancer any symptom should be investigated as soon as it's discovered.

Additionally, healthy lifestyle choices may help decrease the chance of developing breast cancer. Healthy lifestyle choices are an example of something a person can control, said Roberta Dehn, a breast cancer survivor and IT project manager with the 49th Communications Squadron.

Dehn spent more than 22 years in the Air Force before she retired as a master sergeant. Her diagnosis took her by surprise.

"It sucker punches you in the stomach," said Dehn. "One minute you're a normal person and the next minute you're a statistic."

Dehn said her military experience helped a tremendous amount. After five deployments, she was well versed in handling stress.

"One day at a time, one week at a time, one treatment at a time ... the military had given me the ability to break it down into achievable goals," said Dehn.

She emphasized the importance of self-breast examination which gives people a familiarity with their bodies so they will know when something is out of order.

"When something doesn't feel right, get it checked right away," said Dehn. "Even if the steps are inconvenient or even scary, people need to take the steps for prevention."

According to the American Cancer Society, the best defense is early detection. These early detection steps come in the form of two types of commonly used tests: mammograms and clinical breast exams. A mammogram is an x-ray of the breast that may find tumors that are too small to feel, and a clinical breast exam is an exam of the breast by a doctor. People should start getting regular breast exams between the ages of 40 and 70, said Maj. Phil Broberg, a healthcare integrator with the 49th Medical Group. People should also be aware if they have breast cancer in their family medical history.

This cancer is the second leading cause of death in women after lung cancer. As a cancer survivor, Roberta Dehn knows that getting even the minor symptoms checked is critical. If a person is at high risk or showing symptoms, they should schedule an appointment with their provider immediately.

For more information visit the American Cancer Society website at http://www.cancer.org.