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A battle cry against breast cancer

PRINCETON – Early detection and prevention is the battle cry of state and local officials in observing October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

In proclaiming October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month in Illinois, Gov. Pat Quinn said the goal is to educate residents about breast cancer and to underscore the importance of early detection through monthly breast self-exams and annual mammograms.

“Prevention and early detection of breast cancer gives us the best chance to fight this disease that has devastated the lives of so many women and their families,” Quinn said. “Breast Cancer Awareness Month is a perfect time to encourage the women in our lives to pay attention to their health and receive life-saving screenings.”

In a local promotion of the Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the Bureau/Putnam County Health Department is one of several agencies participating this week in events sponsored by St. Margaret’s Hospital in Spring Valley and Perry Memorial Hospital in Princeton. St. Margaret’s held a Breast Cancer bingo awareness event on Wednesday. Perry Memorial will sponsor a woman’s health spa open house today, Saturday, from 9 a.m. to noon at the Bureau County Metro Center.

Health educator Joy Jaraczewski with the Bureau/Putnam County Health Department said there are two things which people need to know when it comes to breast cancer. First of all, they need to know the symptoms which need to be examined by a doctor. Any inflammatory sore on the breast needs to be checked out immediately. Other concerns are a thickening or swelling of part of the breast, any nipple discharge other than breast milk, any change in the size or shape of the breast, and any pain in the breast.

The majority of women who get breast cancer do not have a family history of breast cancer, Jaraczewski said. However, those women with a family history of breast cancer are at the highest risk for developing the disease.

Secondly, people need to realize that men can get breast cancer, not just women, Jaraczewski said.

Agreeing with Gov. Quinn, Jaraczewski said the most important message to get out to the public during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, as well as every other month of the year, is that early detection is very important. Women should do regular breast exams and also get regular mammograms. The medical research field has made great strides with breast cancer, she said.

As far as lowering the risk of breast cancer, or any other type of cancer, Jaraczewski said people should exercise regularly and control their weight; know their family medical history, including any breast cancer occurrences; limit alcohol use; and also avoid using any tobacco products. These safeguards will improve the quality of life for everyone, she said.

For people who do not have health insurance, Quinn said the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program (IBCCP) provides free breast exams, mammograms, pelvic exams, and Pap tests to uninsured women. IBCCP has provided nearly 38,000 women with free breast screenings in the past fiscal year alone, he said.

Locally, Peggy Cartwright oversees the Illinois Valley Breast and Cervical Cancer Program, sponsored through the local health department. The year-round program is for those people who do not have health insurance or public aid. People with health insurance are also eligible for the program if their insurance carrier provides a letter stating the person’s policy does not cover mammograms or pap smears, Cartwright said.

Through the local program, the health department provides vouchers for eligible persons to take to participating medical providers.

“Early detection is key. It saves lives,” Cartwright said. “I know it’s hard sometimes to go for tests because no one wants to think about it, about possibly having cancer. But I tell them, that just like you have to keep up your car with regular oil changes and maintenance, you need to keep up your body.”

Illinois Public Health Director LaMar Hasbrouck agreed saying breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in women and is the second leading cause of cancer deaths for women.

“We urge women during October and beyond to be proactive in taking steps to lower their risk of breast cancer,” Hasbrouck said.

Comment on this story at www.bcrnews.com.

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