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Fewer Mississippi women getting breast screenings Carly Tynes When Jennifer Horton felt a lump on the side

of her left breast one morning on her way to work, she didnt think anything of it. By fall 2012, the lump had grown, and she knew it was time to see her doctor. Six months later, Horton received news that would change her life. I can remember my phone ringing and my heart dropping, she said. My doctor said, We have a little bit of cancer, and I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Horton isnt alone with her diagnosis. According to the Mississippi Department of Health, this year alone, at least 2,000 of 1.53 million Mississippi women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. All I could think of when I was at the doctor was, Oh my gosh, Im fixing to have to tell my kids Im dying, she said. I have triple negative, stage 3-B cancer. Its aggressive and it grows fast, and thats how it was treated. The Centers for Disease Control released reports stating that breast cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, not counting some types of skin cancer. Data released by the MSDH showed that 3,303 Mississippi women got mammograms in 2013, which is down by 1,407 from the 4,710 women who got mammograms during the previous fiscal year. The MSDH defines the fiscal year as July 1 through June 30. In 2009, a panel from the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force recommended that women 50 or older should start undergoing mammograms every other year, instead of every year, as was previously recommended. The panel also said women should forgo breast screenings until in their 50s. The Mayo Clinic study showed the number of women

receiving mammograms in their 40s declined. State data showed that 80 percent of all breast cancer cases are found in women older than 50, and nationwide statistics show that women have a 1 in 8 probability of developing breast cancer. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of death in women, said Allison Mooney, a radiology technologist who learned how to perform mammograms while in school. Women have a one in eight chance in developing breast cancer during their lifetime. She also stressed the importance of women age 40 and older having mammograms every one to two years. A mammogram is the most effective method to detect cancer, she said. (A mammogram) can detect a tumor two years before it can be felt. A self-exam monthly isnt too much to ask. However, many women are like Horton and may go to the doctor once a lump of concern is noticed, or they may not have the funds for a trip to the doctor. Cancer.gov states that private insurers or Medicare will usually cover the cost of mammograms. For those who are uninsured, the CDC has options available to women around the United States for free or low-cost mammogram screenings. According to Mississippi health data, 6,246 of the 1.52 million women in the 35 years and older category performed breast self-examinations during the 2012. Only 4,415 women performed those same examinations in 2013, meaning there was a 1,831-person decrease from 2012-2013. According to the same state data from 1999-2013 women ages 50-64 were the

largest category of women who perform annual breast self-exams. That means 40,600 of the 555,000 Mississippi women in that age group performed the exams. Only 150 of 358,000 women in Mississippi ages 65 years and older perform regular self-exams. Jodi Ryder, health education and promotion coordinator for the University of Southern Mississippi, said the health education team goes to dorms on campus to speak with women about how to give breast self-exams. Its important now to start doing exams so that youre familiar with the shape of your breasts so that in later years when you are more at risk, youll be better able to notice a change, she said. Ryder said 22 patients at the universitys health clinic were sent for further testing from January 2012 to October 2013 after raising concerns about a lump in their breasts they discovered from self-examinations. Two of those patients were men. Any woman or man could be diagnosed with the disease, but studies show that African-American women are more likely to die from the disease. The MSDH website says that reason is because their tumors are found at a "later, more advanced stage when treatment is not as effective." Emma Freeman, 72, knew the history of breast cancer in her family made her more prone to having the disease. She had a double-mastectomy performed as a preventative measure after her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. If I had not gotten mine (the double mastectomy) when I did, it would have been full-blown breast cancer, she said. Mother had breast cancer twice. It returned after her surgery, and the second time she was forced to have radiation and chemotherapy. The most recent statistics from the CDC show that 23,400 to 30,400 women

nationwide died from breast cancer in 2010. Horton considers herself one of the lucky ones. She said during her chemotherapy treatments, she would visit with patients who shared her same diagnoses who were not given the same chances of survival that she was. She finished her last round of radiation treatment and was declared cancer free on Oct. 2, 2013, nine months after she was diagnosed. You are your own bodys advocate, she added. Listen to your body; if your body says youre tired, rest. If you have an ache thats new, dont just say itll go away. You are your own bodys advocate. Horton said she has taken her 15-year-old daughter to local doctors, so they can teach her how to perform breast self-exams and to encourage her to be open with her doctors about any issues. You cant play around with this stuff. I want for somebody to look at her (my daughter) and say, You feel for this, you look for that, she said. And if you ever feel anything that is different, you have to let somebody know. Its better to go ahead and find out rather than wait too long and have to go through something like this (cancer).