October is breast cancer awareness month! According to the American Cancer Society, 1 in 8 women will develop invasive breast cancer in their lifetime. Fewer than 15 percent of these women will have a family history of breast cancer. It is estimated that approximately 40,000 women will die from breast cancer in 2017. As startling as these statistics are, our current mammogram rates are significantly lower than they should be in North Iowa!

Yearly mammograms have helped reduce the breast cancer mortality rate in the U.S. by nearly one-third since 1990. The earlier breast cancer cases are caught, the better the woman’s survival rate. This is why its vital women begin their annual mammograms at the age of 40.

Many women have expressed reasons as to why they haven’t scheduled and received their annual mammogram. Below are five popular myths that I would like to “debunk”!

 I'm too busy

Don't put yourself last. This is your health and you can't help others if you're not healthy. Typically mammogram appointments take around 30 minutes or less.

I have no family history

Eighty-five percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history.

 I can't afford it

Most insurance plans pay for preventive (screening) mammograms every 12 months. If you have no insurance or your insurance will not cover your mammogram, financial help is available by contacting the Cerro Gordo County Department of Public Health’s Care for Yourself program.

I exercise and eat right

That’s great! A healthy lifestyle may lower your risk of breast cancer (and many other diseases), but it doesn't eliminate your risk. You still need to get checked. (Routine screenings belong on your list of healthy habits.)

I can't feel any lumps

Breast cancer can start long before a tumor is big enough to feel. Mammograms can show lumps or specks that may be from cancer, precancerous cells, or other conditions that would require further testing.

Breast cancer is no longer a rare occurrence. Most of us know someone who has been affected by breast cancer. The woman may be a relative, friend, neighbor, loved one, co-worker, or spouse of someone you know. Receiving your annual mammogram beginning at the age of 40 is very important to your health, your family, and your future. This potentially life-saving exam is simple and quick! Early detection is key!

Karen Crimmings is the chronic disease prevention and health promotion service manager for the Cerro Gordo Department of Public Health.

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