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Regular Screening, Lifestyle Changes Help Fight Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is a disease in which cells in the breast grow out of control. When breast cancer spreads outside the breast through blood vessels and lymph vessels, it is said to have metastasized.

Breast cancer screening means checking a woman’s breasts for cancer before there are signs or symptoms of the disease. Health care providers need to inform all women about the best screening options for them, their benefits, and risks. Although breast cancer screening cannot prevent breast cancer, it can help find breast cancer early, when it is easier to treat. Talk to your doctor about which breast cancer screening tests are right for you, and when you should have them.

A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast. Mammograms are the best way to find breast cancer early, when it is easier to treat and before it is big enough to feel or cause symptoms. Having regular mammograms can lower the risk of dying from breast cancer. At this time, a mammogram is the best way to find breast cancer for most women.

A clinical breast exam is an examination by a doctor or nurse, who uses his or her hands to feel for lumps or other changes. Being familiar with how your breasts look and feel can help you notice symptoms such as lumps, pain, or changes in size that may be of concern. These could include changes found during a breast self-exam. You should report any changes that you notice to your doctor or health care provider.

Did you know that in addition to having regular mammograms done to detect breast cancer early, there are other lifestyle changes you can make to help reduce your risk of breast cancer?

You can reduce your breast cancer risk by staying at a healthy weight, being physically active, and limiting how much alcohol you drink. In addition, regular mammograms can often find breast cancer early when treatments are more likely to be successful.

Women age 40 to 64 may qualify for free breast cancer screenings through the Alabama Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program, if they have limited income and have no insurance or are underinsured. Free services include a clinical breast exam, mammogram, and diagnostic services such as an ultrasound or biopsy if needed.

For more information about screenings offered at no charge to you, visit, call the Alabama Department of Public Health toll-free at 877-252-3324, or contact your local county health department.

Scott Harris, M.D.
State Health Officer

(October 2018)

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Page last updated: October 1, 2018