During the past year, 10,200 women in British Columbia were diagnosed with cancer. In Agassiz, a drop-in screening clinic is being set up to help lower that number.
As in previous years, breast cancer accounted for almost 30 per cent of these diagnoses, and cervical cancer accounted for a smaller number.
Although it is not known why one woman gets cancer and another does not, there are some things each woman can do to reduce her risk of these diseases.
The first thing to do is to start living a healthy lifestyle. Equally important is taking charge of your health by ensuring that you have regular screening tests or have symptoms checked by your doctor.
Many symptoms can be caused by problems that are much less serious than cancer. But, if cancer cannot be prevented, treatment is more likely to be successful if it is found early.
Rather than waiting for symptoms to become noticeable, women should make it a matter of importance to schedule regular screening tests both for breast cancer and cervical cancer. To make it convenient for women to have these screening tests done, the Agassiz Community Health Centre will be opening its doors on Thursday, April 12 for “drop-in” mammogram screening and Pap tests. On Friday, April 13 and Saturday, April 14, ONLY, mammogram screening tests will be done at the Agassiz Community Health Centre. If you wish to have a mammogram on the Friday or Saturday, you will have to call 1.800.663.9203 to book an appointment time.
If you are between the ages of 40 and 49, talk to your doctor about your risk of breast cancer, along with the benefits and risks of mammography. If you are 50 to 69 years of age, you should have a mammogram every two years. If you are older than 70, your doctor can advise you as to how often you should have a mammogram. A mammogram can detect a breast problem when it is as small as the head of a pin; a breast self-exam can’t usually find a cancer until it is as least the size of a pea.
The Pap test looks at cervical cells to see if there are precancerous changes or abnormalities that could lead to cervical cancer. Nearly all cervical cancers are caused by high-risk types of the human papillomavirus (HPV) transmitted though sexual intercourse, genital skin-to-skin contact and oral sex. If you are sexually active, you should start having regular Pap tests by the time you’re 21. You’ll need a Pap test every one to three years depending on your previous test results.
It is not possible to over estimate the significance of screening tests. A simple mammogram or Pap test can save your life.
-Submitted by the Agassiz Community Health (with acknowledgement to the Canadian Cancer Society)