The American Cancer Society estimates there will be 4,200 new cancer diagnoses in North Dakota in 2021, including 570 new cases of breast cancer. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Women’s Way, North Dakota’s Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program, is urging women to take the time to get screened.

When it comes to breast cancer screenings, Women’s Way says earlier is better. Mammography can help detect cancer in its earliest stage, nearly two years before a lump can be felt during a self or clinical breast exam. Finding a breast tumor early may mean a woman can choose surgery that saves her breast, or she may not need chemotherapy.

As women age, the risk of getting breast cancer increases. Studies show that 85 percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer have no known risk factors other than age.

Women turning 40 should have a conversation with their health care provider to determine when to begin screenings. Women ages 45 to 54 should receive annual mammograms. 

Though many individuals have chosen to delay their screenings during the COVID pandemic, women should keep their health a top priority.

Cancer didn’t suddenly disappear when the pandemic began. Providers are taking the necessary precautions to protect their patients. Schedule your screening today.

If you’re uninsured, underinsured, or don’t know if you can afford a mammogram, Women’s Way is here to help. Nearly 17,000 women in North Dakota could be eligible to receive free breast or cervical cancer screenings. With Women’s Way, you are able to see your own provider and schedule your screenings when it fits your agenda.  

To see if you’re eligible, please call me at the Richland County Health Department, 701-642-7735.

Jean Smith is an RN, BSN with the Richland County Health Department.

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