The second leading cause of death for women remains breast cancer. One in eight women in the U.S. will get invasive breast cancer.1 It’s a scary thought. But what really drives me to step up on my soapbox and shout each October during Breast Cancer Awareness Month is the fact that one in five women here in Wisconsin have not had a mammogram in the last two years.2
That’s 20 percent of our moms, sisters, daughters and friends who are not getting the screenings they need to detect abnormal cells well before they can be felt. Health screenings of any type are stressful and intimidating. And breast cancer screenings are even more so than most. But they’re too important to ignore.
There are a few common links among women with breast cancer, called risk factors. People with risk factors have a greater chance of getting breast cancer, but it’s by no means a certainty. Most women who have some risk factors never get the disease. Screenings are important for every woman but are particularly so for women with these risk factors:3, 4
- Getting older – about 66 percent of breast cancers are found in women at least 55 years old.
- Having a family member with breast cancer and inherited genetic factors.
- Having a first child after age 35.
- Starting menopause after age 55.
- Having the first period before age 12.
- Not being active.
- Using birth control pills now or recently.
- Being overweight or obese.
- Drinking alcohol – women who have 2-5 drinks daily have 1.5 times the risk of non-drinkers.
With that said, here are some ideas to help you gently help your loved ones schedule and keep their mammography appointments.
The Buddy System – If you’re a woman, encourage your loved one to go with you to get your mammograms. It you’re a man, offer to go along and wait in the waiting room. Either way, celebrate afterward with a fun dinner out, movie or something else to make an annoying process enjoyable.
The Shameless Heartstring Pull – Do it politely, but tell them that you don’t want to lose them and that their decision to avoid their screening impacts everyone who loves them – kids, parents, siblings or all of the above.
The Bribe – Why can’t Christmas come in October? Get a small gift, wrap it up (maybe with a pink ribbon), and present it along with a card that says, “Do Not Open Until Mammogram Day.”
The point is to have fun, be respectful and polite, but make sure that the women you love are not part of the 20 percent avoiding breast cancer screenings.
1 American Cancer Society: What are the key statistics about breast cancer?
2 National Cancer Institute: Screenings and Risk Factor Tables.
3 American Cancer Society: What are the risk factors for breast cancer?
4 Susan G. Komen for the Cure: Risk Factors