October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but despite our increased awareness of the disease, a new survey has found that a surprising number of people remain confused about certain aspects of risk and prevention. Considering that 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime, according to the National Cancer Institute, these findings are alarming.
Due to early detection, more people than ever are surviving breast cancer, but a poll conducted by ABC to accompany their month-long coverage of breast cancer issues shows that many women are still confused.
Results of the poll indicate that 50 percent of the women surveyed have discussed breast cancer with their doctors — an 8 percent decrease over last year’s survey results. It also found that only 46 percent of those surveyed indicated concern about their own risk of the disease.This figure was 61 percent last year, which is a whopping 15 percent decrease.
Although most doctors agree that maintaining a healthy body weight and exercising regularly can reduce the risk of a woman developing breast cancer, only 4 percent of women polled said they dieted to prevent cancer, and only 2 percent said they exercised as a form of prevention.
Some of the confusion around the disease is due to screening — how often women should schedule mammograms and at what age. The American Cancer Society and BreastCancer.org both recommend mammograms every year for all women age 40 and older, regardless of their risk factors. The survey found that seven out of eight women age 40 and older said that they’d had a mammogram in the past two years. The most commonly cited reason among the ones that hadn’t had the screening was because they didn't believe it was necessary.
According to Dr. Marisa Weiss, founder of BreastCancer.org, “... people equate the start of mammography with the start of breast cancer risk. So it's no surprise that if some doctors say get your mammogram later, people will think risk starts even later."
Personally, I am in the over-40 club, and my doctor recently told me that mammograms every two years are sufficient. Wait, are you telling me I shouldn't listen to my own doctor? Now I’m confused!