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October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October 10, 2008

Have you had your mammogram yet? Or if you’re a young woman, have you had a clinical breast exam from your health provider recently?

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and if you haven’t yet made time to schedule these potentially life-saving screenings, now is a good time to pick up the phone and call for an appointment, Health and Senior Services Commissioner Heather Howard said today.

“With all the demands and responsibilities women face, it’s sometimes easy to let our own health care needs slide. But we must take care of ourselves – both for our own sake and the sake of our loved ones,” the Commissioner said. “Mammograms and clinical breast exams are vital tools that can help reduce your risk of serious illness and death.”

In October, the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) is working with its partners on activities to honor women who have fought breast cancer and to mark Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

  • All month, New Jersey’s libraries will participate in the “Book Mark Your Health” project. Library patrons will be given special book marks and brochures with breast cancer awareness and early detection information.
  • Through a web site, media marketing and a mailing to more than 100,000 “Making Strides Against Breast Cancer” participants, the American Cancer Society will promote the cancer screening and treatment services available to low-income uninsured and underinsured residents through the DHSS Cancer Education and Early Detection Program (NJCEED). Women diagnosed and treated through NJCEED will speak about their experiences at Making Strides events on October 19th and 26th.
  • On October 27, DHSS and the Susan G. Komen for the Cure North Jersey and Central/South Jersey affiliates will hold The Pink Coffee Day at the New Jersey State House. More than 150 women legislators, cancer survivors, cancer organizations and others are expected to attend this educational event.

Also earlier this month, the Hershey Company held its annual four-day, 220-mile Tour de Pink bicycle ride to benefit the Youth Survival Coalition, the premier network of survivors and supporters dedicated to the concerns of young women and breast cancer.

“As a three-and-a-half year breast cancer survivor, I know first-hand the importance of early detection,” said Komen race participant Doreleena Sammons-Posey, the DHSS Director of Chronic Disease Prevention and Control Services. “All women need to understand that early detection means earlier diagnosis, less complex and costly treatment and a better chance at a cure.”

Earlier this month, Sammons-Posey joined a team of 62 DHSS staff members —led by team captain Ann Marie Hill, executive director of the New Jersey Commission on Cancer Research—who participated in the 15th Annual Komen Central and South Jersey Race for the Cure at Great Adventure in Jackson. The Department raised $2,800 and won a special award for increasing participation by 700 percent over last year.

According to data from the State Cancer Registry, people with breast cancer and other common types of cancer are living longer than they did 20 years earlier due to better detection and treatment. Still, the American Cancer Society estimates that in 2008, more than 6,300 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and at least 1,400 will die of the disease. Although about 99 percent of breast cancers occur in women, men can develop breast cancer, too.

In addition, breast cancer disproportionately impacts minority communities. Though they are less likely to develop breast cancer, African-American women with breast cancer are much more likely to die from the disease.

To help reduce breast cancer disparities, DHSS provides comprehensive outreach, education and screening services through NJCEED. The program offers free breast, cervical, colorectal and prostate cancer screening to eligible persons through 25 agencies statewide. For more information, visit the CEED web site at or call 1-800-328-3838.

The American Cancer Society recommends the following guidelines for early detection:

  • Women 40 and older should have a mammogram every year, as well as an annual breast exam by a health professional.
  • Women in their 20s and 30s should have a clinical breast exam as part of a regular health exam by a health professional every three years.
  • Breast self-examination is an option for women starting in their 20s.
  • Women at increased risk (e.g., family, genetic tendency, past breast cancer) should talk to their doctors about the benefits and limitations of adding breast ultrasound or MRI to their screening regimen or having more frequent exams.
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