October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

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Posted at 5:19 PM, Oct 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-13 19:19:23-04

HELENA — October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Lewis and Clark Public Health and St. Peter’s Health encourage awareness and encourage screenings.

“And this is the time when those pink ribbons come out. And we all bring as much awareness to breast cancer as we can, and encourage people in our communities to check in with primary care, get their mammograms scheduled, do their self-breast exams. This is the time that we just bring attention to breast cancer,” says Director and Health Officer for Lewis & Clark Public Health, Drenda Niemann.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month is meant to create awareness of pervasive cancer that affects 1 in 8 women. It’s also meant to encourage folks to take steps to administer self-checks and to check in with their primary care physician and get screened.

Such screenings often involve a mammogram. Newer technology has created the possibility to check for possible life-threatening tumors at an earlier stage thus saving lives. Early detection of breast cancer leads to a 99% 5-year survival rate. Mammogram screenings are recommended beginning at age 40 and on a regular basis from then on. And administering self-checks and talking with your doctor can make all the difference.

“Breast cancer is curable. It is treatable. It isn't a death sentence like it was 25 years ago. People are afraid. I've felt a lump. I don't wanna go in. I'm too afraid. And we have to reassure them that it's gonna be okay,” says RN-ONNCG (Oncology Nurse Navigator Certified Generalist), Pam Sasser.

Niemann found out she had breast cancer when she was in her late 30s. Thankfully, due to early detection, and our current technology, she’s been cancer free for 7 years.

“I think we live in a really special time in breast cancer history. My grandmother also had breast cancer. She was diagnosed later in life. But she didn't have the same experience that I did. You know, the technologies and the medicines just were not as advanced as they are today,” says Niemann.

Breast cancer screenings can be administered at St. Peter’s Health and at Lewis & Clark Public Health. Lewis & Clark Public Health has a cancer screening program that provides free breast and cervical cancer screenings for those who meet certain criteria.

“...uplifting things about my job is walking people through, you know, that whole trajectory and then having them at the end say, ‘I'm cured. This is, you know, just something that is part of my history,’ and then watching them move on and live a wonderful life,” says Sasser.