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Airmen observe breast cancer awareness

Breast cancer awareness graphic

Breast cancer awareness graphic

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- In observance of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, members of the 30th Medical Group have sought to bring attention, throughout the month of October, to the second leading cause of death among women.

With the hope of reducing fatalities by encouraging better screening and early detection, 30th Medical Group personnel are armed with information.

"We had a table set up for Breast Cancer Awareness Month during one of the wing fitness runs, where we raised awareness to over 400 members," said Maj. Mario Abejero, 30th Medical Group team health care integrator. "We also had a table set up in the Medical Group with brochures, pamphlets, and giveaways with breast cancer awareness information."

Statistics have shown, as general awareness and self-examinations increase, the cancer's fatality rates decrease.

"Breast cancer is the most common non-skin cancer and the second deadliest cancer in women," said Maj. Christine Ragay-Cathers, 30th MDG family medicine physician. "If caught early, it can be treated and go into remission for a long time. With the increased awareness of breast cancer, the mortality rates have gone down, because women and men are screening themselves and seeking care earlier. In just the past three years I have been here, I have diagnosed breast cancer in four of my female patients and it was early enough in the disease that they were able to receive treatment and are currently doing very well."

Although the past month has been dedicated to breast cancer mindfulness, physicians recommend utilizing various preventative measures at all times.

"Members of Team-Vandenberg can continuously support breast cancer awareness by encouraging each other as wingmen, regarding awareness about breast cancer," said Abejero. Brochures are available in the clinic and I encourage anybody to check the internet on how to perform an easy self-examination each month. It's essential to make an appointment with your healthcare provider right away for any breast changes such as lumps, hard knots or thickening, swelling, warmth, redness or darkening, changes in the size or shape of the breast, dimpling or puckering of the skin, itchy, scaly, sore or a rash on the nipple, pulling in of your nipple or other parts, and nipple discharge that starts suddenly. All these symptoms are important to get checked and ruled out for possible breast cancer."

Though less common in males, breast cancer does not gender discriminate - as all people, male and female, are born with some breast cells and tissue.

"Male breast cancer is rare, so it is generally overlooked," said Abejero. "About one percent of breast cancer cases develop in males. Approximately 2,000 new cases are diagnosed annually in the United States. Despite the small percentage of male breast cancer, it is often fatal for the men who are diagnosed because it is usually found after the disease is at a dangerous level. So, early detection is very important. Men can perform the same self-breast examination that women perform and they may utilize a mammogram machine as well."

According to Vandenberg medical practitioners, simply taking advantage of proven preventative practices, while maintaining a healthy lifestyle with proper nutrition and exercise, give Airmen and their families the best chance of staying safe.

"Have an annual physical," said Ragay-Cathers. "Do a breast exam at least once a month and see a provider if you notice any change in your breasts. Also, if any Vandenberg members are breast cancer survivors please share your story and experience to the community. Nothing raises more awareness than hearing about a survivor's experience."