Breast cancer awareness month at CNM; CNM hosts mobile mammograms at Main Campus

By Guadalupe Santos-Sanchez, Staff Reporter

There will be mammograms provided by Assured Imaging from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Oct. 10 at CNM’s Annual Employee and Wellness Fair in front of Smith Brasher Hall in the Main Campus, said Marti Brittenham, director of the Student Health Center at CNM.

The United Stated Public Health Service (USPHS) has recommended that health ser­vices providers not do breast exams unless somebody is feeling a lump, she said.

“I think it is important for women to check their breasts if for no other reason than to reas­sure themselves that there is nothing wrong,” she said.

It is important for women to know what is normal because otherwise they might find something and then proceed to worry about it even if it is not cancer, she said.

If a person already has been told about something and know what is normal and how it should feel it makes it easier to know what is not normal and what should be checked out, she said.

“I teach breast exams when I do a Gynecological exam or a well woman exam, I teach women to do their own breast exams and I teach them what is normal and what is not,” Brittenham said.

A well woman exam is a periodical exam that often includes a pelvic exam and a Pap smear exam, she said.

It empowers women to know how to do their own breast exams, she said.

She has seen a number of her patients find their own breast cancer after a normal mam­mogram, she said.

“I found my own breast cancer six months after a normal mammogram,” Brittenham said.

When it is time to get mammograms it is important for women to make the appointment and get it done, she said.

“Most breast cancers happen to women over 40 because the breast tissue changes through­out a woman’s lifetime, and that’s why after age 40 is when mammograms are typically done,” Brittenham said.

At a younger age the breasts are not as fatty, they have more support tissue, she said.

The mammogram is not as good at picking up a breast lump in a young woman because of the structural tissue that’s there, she said.

For younger people ultrasounds are done and they are more likely to find a lump, she said.

Breast cancer is a group of cancerous cells in one or both breasts, that used to be normal breast tissue, Brittenham said.

“There is no statistical difference in length of life post diagnosis, whether you do a mas­tectomy or a lumpectomy with radiation and chemotherapy,” she said.

Some women will opt for breast sparing surgery, other women will opt for a mastec­tomy, and there is a variety of different radia­tion and chemotherapy regiments that are offered, she said.

The Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection (BCC) program can potentially help women all through their diagnosis and treat­ment, Brittenham said.

“It is a nationwide program, through the Center for Disease Control that funds health departments to do mammograms and pap smears on women who probably would not get them otherwise, and it’s been a very good thing for the women of New Mexico,” she said.

A pap smear exam is the examination of the external genitalia, the vagina, the cervix, the uterus and the ovaries, she said.

The program has funds to be able to take care of women who have abnormal pap smears or abnormal mammograms to get them to the appropriate facilities and have them further diagnosed, she said.

If they need treatment for cancer it helps with that financially or it gets the women on a special insurance program for those in need of treatment for breast cancer, she said.

Some of the programs in place are public health department clinics, some private doctor offices and other low-income clinics, she said.

“I do pap smears and breast exams through this program and if the woman is over 30 or over 40 we can start getting her mammo­grams on the regular, and that is done for free,” Brittenham said.

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