When you hear “October” what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Maybe pumpkin spice lattes or falling leaves…but more likely, you’re scheduling family photos for Christmas cards, shuffling kids to and from school and sports activities, and pulling together all the little details for your kids’ Halloween costumes.
Not surprisingly, you’re thinking about everyone else and making sure their needs are met and their childhoods are magical. But what about your needs? What about your health? If you’re like most women, it’s probably down at the bottom of the list (if it’s on the list atl all).
It’s difficult to make time for ourselves – especially to do something that, while “good” for us, isn’t as fun as trick-or-treating or a trip through a corn maze.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and even though it can be a hassle, a tad uncomfortable – even a little scary – we want to encourage you to carve out some time for yourself and schedule a mammogram for your pumpkins! Here’s why:
According to the CDC, 11% of all breast cancer cases occur in women younger than 45, but screenings for women under 40 are rarely performed unless a woman has a genetic mutation, family history, or a mass/lump that needs to be checked out.
This is why having a full understanding of your family medical history and regularly performing self-exams is so crucial.
By the time many women are “old enough” to begin screenings, it might be too late. One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime, and early detection is key to survival.
A lot of factors have probably allowed you to justify putting off an appointment. Not knowing who to call or where to go, not knowing how much it costs, and the fear of how painful it could be are all common reasons women use to delay life-saving exams.
But a large percentage of breast cancer diagnoses this year were in women who didn’t have a mammogram last year – that means their disease had a whole year (maybe longer) to progress without treatment.
We have to do better, ladies.
If you’re under 40 and feel you need to be screened due to family history or something abnormal you found during a self-exam, contact your primary care doctor for a referral.
Women between the ages of 45-54 should schedule annual appointments for mammograms. Women 55+ can drop down to mammograms every 2 years if they are low risk.
Check your insurance coverage so a copay, up front cost, or large fee doesn’t surprise you. If you don’t have a PCP or are uninsured, you can call your local hospital or imaging center to see if they offer low/no-cost screenings. Your area might also offer a mobile clinic – a quick Google search is a great place to start.
Wherever you go, make sure it’s a facility accredited by the American College of Radiology (ACR). Their doctors and technicians are specifically trained in mammography, and quality is critical to getting an accurate and reliable mammogram.
If you need help navigating the process, visit the National Breast Cancer Foundation for support and to find a partner clinic near you. Looking for guidance on how to properly perform self breast exams? Download the Keep A Brest app!
Want to do more than self-exams and mammograms? Here are 3 ways to help fight for women everywhere:
- 1. Donate. Gift a free mammogram to a woman who can’t afford one, or support breast cancer research. If you’re in need of financial assistance, check out the National Mammography Program!
- 2. Host a Fundraiser. Whether it’s on your own, with your employer, or for your child’s school you can partner with the National Breast Cancer Foundation to bring awareness and raise funding.
- 3. Volunteer. The National Breast Cancer Foundation offers many ways to get involved! Host a HOPE Kit packing party, write encouraging notes to those battling cancer, or become a community advocate in your area. The American Cancer Society hosts a Relay for Life nationwide as well as other volunteer opportunities – see what’s available in your area.
Want to make sure you’re around to plan pumpkin patch field trips and classroom Halloween parties for years to come? Then don’t keep pushing this to the bottom of your to-do list. Get it on the calendar now – and make sure your mom, grandmas, sisters, and BFFs are doing it too. A future without them is too spooky to imagine!