Seeing Pink

Making Breast Cancer Awareness Month count with the latest technology here at home
Thursday, October 6, 2022
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Linda Daigle, a career school teacher in Montana and elsewhere, said women in Montana — particularily ranch and farm women — tend to take care of everyone else before themselves. Dailge also said she has seen co-workers get screened, go through treatment and go on with their lives. Photo by Beau Gurie.

Orange spice may be all the rage when fall hits, but the real power color for the month of October is pink.

For the last 37 years, October has been designated Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The idea is to educate women — and men — about early detection and promote self-exams and mammograms.

Women who are at average risk should start getting mammograms at age 40. Some women may need to start screening earlier based on personal or family history.

SOBERING STATS

Breast cancer is the second most common cancer in women, accounting for approximately 30 percent of all new female cancers each year, according to the American Cancer Society.

The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) reports that breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed among Montana women, accounting for 31 percent of new cancers.

This year, it’s estimated that more than 281,000 women will be diagnosed in the U.S., including 920 new cases in Montana. That represents 16 percent of the U.S. female population, according to the U.S. Census.

Overall, the average risk of a woman in the United States developing breast cancer sometime in her life is about 13 percent. That means there is a 1 in 8 chance she will develop breast cancer.

Breast cancer screening means checking for cancer before there are signs or symptoms of the disease. Mammograms are the best method to detect breast cancer early when it is easier to treat and before it is big enough to feel or cause symptoms, according to DPHHS. The likelihood of surviving breast cancer increases when the cancer is detected at an early stage.

“Detecting cancer early when treatment works best is critical to saving lives,” said DPHHS Cancer Control Programs (MCCP) Section Supervisor Leah Merchant in a press release.

For women who are considered in the average risk category, mammograms start at age 40.

EARLY DETECTION IS KEY

Detecting breast cancer early can literally be the difference between life and death. Linda Daigle, a career school teacher in Montana and elsewhere, said women in Montana — particularily ranch and farm women — tend to take care of everyone else before themselves.

Daigle also said she thinks many women are afraid of the actual mammogram. which she says is really nothing to really fear at all. In as little as 20 minutes and some short-lived discomfort, a woman can be done with a mammogram and on to the rest of her day. “What a small price to pay, just once a year,” said Daigle. “It’s the intelligent thing to do.”

3D TECHNOLOGY RIGHT HERE AT HOME

Since February of 2020, the Stillwater Billings Clinic has had a cutting edge Genious 3D mammogram machine. 3D machines are 20 to 65 percent more effective at finding invasive breast cancers, compared to 2D machines. The new model has also proven to reduce unnecessary callbacks by up to 40 percent and a curved paddle system provides for more comfort during the screening.

The Genius exam allows doctors to examine breast tissue layer by layer, as opposed to viewing breast tissue in a flat image, according to MyGenius3D.com. It takes the radiologist approximately 15 minutes to complete the scan.

Approximately $100,000 of the funding for the new machine came from the hospital foundation and the annual Jewel of the Stillwater fundraiser. The Copulos Trust accounted for another $51,000 and Sibanye-Stillwater helped with the $10,000 Smart Curve Paddle System that was an enhancement to the machine.

Since 2020, more than 1,000 3-D mammograms have been performed locally. Since 2019 through September 2022, 1,439 mammograms have been performed, according to Stillwater Billings Clinic mammography tech Toni Marjerison, who is the only local mammography tech. That means Majerison herself has conducted every single one of those 1,439 mammograms.

ABOUT BREAST CANCER AWARENESS MONTH

Breast Cancer Awareness Month began in 1985 as a partnership between the American Cancer Society and the pharmaceutical division of Imperial Chemical Industries. Betty Ford helped kick off the weeklong event, as she was herself a survivor of breast cancer. She was diagnosed when her husband, Gerald Ford, was president of the United States and brought even more attention to breast cancer.

The early goal of Breast Cancer Awareness Month was to educate women about breast cancer and early detection tests so that they could take charge of their breast health. One of their key goals that they wanted to achieve was to promote mammograms as an important tool to be used in the fight against breast cancer.