Breast cancer is the second deadliest cancer for women in the U.S., resulting in approximately 40,000 deaths each year. One in eight women will likely develop invasive breast cancer at some point in their lives, but thanks to early detection and improved treatments, millions of women are surviving this silent killer. Knowledge is power, and the experts at NurseWise, a national multilingual nurse triage and health education provider, want to ensure all women are informed and ready to be an advocate of their own health during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
“Nearly 300,000 cases of breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed this year alone,” said Kim Tuck, RN, President & CEO of NurseWise. “Although the number of cases has gone down in recent years, it is crucial for women to understand how to be their own advocate in detect, treat and fight this disease. Empowering patients to proactively manage their health is the foundation of NurseWise, and we want women to understand they are their own first line of defense.”
NurseWise offers these five tips to help women take control of their health and understand their options when it comes to breast cancer.
Know your body and start early. Most people understand that that early detection is key to fighting and surviving breast cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends women begin breast self-exams in their 20s and begin receiving clinical breast exams (CBE) every few years in their 20s and 30s. Doing so will provide a baseline for medical providers to compare to in future years. The CBE is an opportunity to talk with your medical provider about breast changes, early detection and other factors. Be sure to keep records of any issues that arise, as this is part of your medical history.
Mammograms save lives. It is recommended that women who do not have a history of breast cancer in their family begin mammograms at age 40 and continue each year beyond. Having a healthy baseline allows a radiologist to compare your annual results – noting if something appears out of the ordinary. You can also ask your doctor about newer, 3-D mammograms, which produce better images. The American Cancer Society recommends that women considered “high risk,” including those with an immediate family member with breast cancer, have an MRI along with their mammogram each year.
Request copies of all of your reports. Keep your own easy-to-access file of all of your screenings, procedures and reports that way you have your medical history at your fingertips and readily available during any doctor’s appointment. Medical history is crucial to determining a course of action following any diagnosis. Paperwork can become misplaced during the transferring of information between doctors’ offices, clinics, labs and hospitals. It’s in patients’ best interests to provide medical staff their records and results during appointments.
Push for additional testing. Sometimes after an abnormal mammogram, patients will need to have an ultrasound to further evaluate the area of concern. If the ultrasound does not provide clarity, women are often instructed to return in six months to reevaluate the issue. In the medical field, six months is deemed a safe time period to monitor the change in breast tissue. This is a standard practice that is meant to avoid unnecessary procedures. Although follow-up test results six months later are typically noncancerous, each person’s body is different. If you’re not comfortable waiting, you can request for a biopsy and take additional steps to prioritize your health.
Get a second opinion. Double-checking your results with another provider is your option. Whether it’s testing, diagnosis or treatment, a second opinion can help you make the most educated decision regarding your health. Take a second set of eyes and ears with you to provider appointments. There is a lot of information shared and often much emotion involved in these appointments, making it easy to miss important details. Bring a friend or family member to be your secretary and take notes. Write down questions beforehand and bring them to your appointment so they can be answered. Some providers will even let you audio record your conversations with a smartphone, making it even easier to review what you learned at a later time.
For additional information about breast cancer during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, visit the American Cancer Society.
NurseWise is a wholly owned subsidiary of Centene Corporation in the business of providing multilingual telehealth (nurse triage and health education) services. They partner with health plans, hospitals, providers, colleges and universities, and other specialty organizations to ensure all callers have access to high quality, appropriate care. For more information, please visit our website at www.nursewise.com or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.