Editorial: During Breast Cancer Awareness Month, importance of yearly mammograms is stressed

In October, much of the country goes pink.

You'll see people wearing pink ribbons on their shirts, football players decked out in pink shoes, pink banners at home and businesses -- all to raise awareness for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which is commemorated each October.

Breast cancer affects 1 in 8 women. Men can also be diagnosed with breast cancer.

Hamilton Medical Center and the public health departments in Murray and Whitfield counties are doing their part to help stress the importance of mammograms recommended yearly beginning at age 40. Mammograms are covered by most health insurance programs.

"It's very important to have your yearly screening mammogram," said Dr. Eric Turner, Peeples Cancer Institute medical director. "Catching cancers early and starting treatment quickly provides the best possible outcomes."

Most breast cancers are found in women who are 50 years old or older, but breast cancer also affects younger women. About 10% of all new cases of breast cancer in the United States are found in women younger than 45 years of age.

Public health departments in Murray and Whitfield counties are offering free breast exams next week.

The Murray County Health Department has a Breast Cancer Awareness Day on Wednesday at the health department, offering free breast exams from 7:30 to 11:30 a.m. and from 1 to 3:30 p.m. The health department is at 709 Old Dalton-Ellijay Road in Chatsworth and the phone number is (706) 695-4585.

The Whitfield County Health Department hosts a Breast Cancer Awareness Day at the health department's Women's Clinic on Wednesday from 8 a.m. to noon. Free clinical breast exams will be provided as well as goody bags.

No appointment is necessary.

The health department is at 800 Professional Blvd. in Dalton (the Women's Clinic is in the back) and the phone number is (706) 279-9600.

Some of the warning signs and symptoms of breast cancer are:

• New lump in the breast or underarm (armpit).

• Thickening or swelling of part of the breast.

• Irritation or dimpling of breast skin.

• Redness or flaky skin in the nipple area or the breast.

• Pulling in of the nipple.

• Nipple discharge other than breast milk, including blood.

• Any change in the size or shape of the breast.

• Pain in the breast.

Learn more about the common symptoms of breast cancer and how to prevent it at www.cdc.gov/cancer/breast/resources/print.htm.

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