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Breast Cancer Awareness for Michigan Women: Still A Long Way To Go

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October 25, 2011

LANSING, Mich. - Every October, pink ribbons dot the Michigan landscape in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and while most women are aware of recommendations to get mammograms to detect any abnormalities early, many do not follow that advice. Breast cancer, though highly treatable when found in its early stages, still ranks second for cancer deaths in women, behind lung cancer.

Martha Trout, director of health initiatives for out-state Michigan (that is, outside the Detroit metro area) for the American Cancer Society (ACS), says the percentage of women in Michigan getting annual mammograms is far higher than in decades past, but seems to have hit a plateau at about 80 percent in recent years.

"We have pockets within Michigan that still are lower than that, and you really need to concentrate on those areas; a lot of it has do to with higher amounts of lower income or lack of insurance."

Trout adds that some women don't get mammograms simply because they're afraid of the test, or of what might be found.

She says doctors need to evaluate a woman's genetic background and family history, but the two biggest breast cancer risk factors are simply being a woman, and getting older.

"When you're in your 70s and 80s, that's when the risk goes up to one in eight. When we're younger it certainly is lower."

Trout says women can lower their breast cancer risk by eating well, exercising, and maintaining a healthy weight. Along with mammography, the ACS also encourages all women to perform regular breast self-exams.

The Society's guidelines call for women to begin getting annual mammograms at age 40; however those in certain high risk groups should consult their doctors about beginning early.

The ACS website,, has information about risk factors, a locator for mammography centers, and information on programs that provide free or low-cost screenings.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - MI