(WASHINGTON, DC) – Today, Mayor Vincent C. Gray and other District officials are calling attention to October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month and reminding women between the ages of 21 and 64 of the importance of getting screened for cancer. DC currently has the nation’s highest rate of breast and cervical cancer mortality. However, with the help of regular cancer screenings, women in the city can combat these statistics and can greatly improve the rate of early detection, treatment and survival.
“Although treatment and modern medicine have made diagnosing and treating breast and cervical cancer easier, there are still not enough women in our community getting screened,” said Mayor Gray. “By coming together as One City to celebrate and acknowledge this month with local community partners and government officials from surrounding jurisdictions, we can send the message that early detection saves lives.”
Women who have a history of breast cancer in their family -- especially in a mother, daughter, sister, father or brother -- are at a greater risk for developing cancer. Caucasian women develop breast cancer at a higher rate than African-American women, but African-American women are more likely to get breast cancer before they are 40, and are more likely succumb to cancer at any age.
In order to avoid late detection, the best way to find breast cancer early is with a mammogram. Women 40 and older are advised to get regular mammograms as well as a clinical breast exam every year, whereas younger women are encouraged to receive clinical breast exams. Breast exams can be done at breast cancer clinics, hospitals or a doctor's office.
Symptoms of breast cancer
• 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 or pain in the nipple area.
• Nipple discharge other than breast milk, including blood.
• Any change in the size or the shape of the breast.
• Pain in any area of the breast.
One of the ways in which the District combats and tracks breast and cervical cancer is through its cancer registry. The registry recently received a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Program of Cancer Registries (NPCR) award for the city’s excellent standards for data completeness, timeliness and quality.
In addition to the DC Department of Health’s Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program -- also known as Project WISH (Women into Staying Healthy) -- the District’s national system of cancer surveillance works with clinicians to provide free clinical breast exams and mammograms to those who are uninsured and underinsured. Project WISH also works with local screening sites to provide other services such as transportation assistance, health education, translation services and case management for patients with abnormal breast and cervical results.
Project WISH is currently enrolling eligible women ages 50 and over into the program for breast and cervical cancer screening. Services covered by Project WISH include an annual mammogram, a Pap test, a clinical breast exam and related diagnostic services at one of our area providers. For more information about Project WISH, please call 202-442-5900.