Clatsop County has higher breast cancer rate, lower screening rate than rest of state


By Sue Cody


About 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer over the course of their lives. During Breast Cancer Awareness Month, local health care professionals are encouraging women to get mammograms, for the detection of breast cancer.


“Mammograms save lives,” says Venus Fromwiller, health education specialist at Columbia Memorial Hospital.


Clatsop County has a higher incidence of breast cancer than the state average and has a screening rate of 70 percent of the eligible population. That is lower than neighboring counties, which have a 76 percent to 80 percent mammography rate. Clatsop also is above the state average in late-stage breast cancer diagnosis.


It is important to catch cancer early for best results. Fromwiller says when breast cancer is found early, after five years there is a 99 percent survival rate. But if the cancer has spread, the survival rate drops to 23 percent.


When to get screened?


At what age, and how often the mammogram screening should be done has been discussed recently, Fromwiller says. But many local doctors still recommend getting an annual mammogram beginning at the age of 40. Women should consult with their primary caregiver for recommendations.


Any changes in the breast of men or women should also be discussed with one’s medical care provider. Possible signs include lumps in the breast, dimpling or heat.


Chris Peck, imaging manager at CMH, says the hospital follows FDA (Federal Drug Administration) and MQSA (Mammography Quality Standards Act) rules to report findings, so there is no ambiguity. Reports from mammograms are sent to the primary physician, then to the patient, who can follow up with her doctor.


Why some people don’t get mammograms


• Pain: Some people believe the procedure is painful. Technology has improved over the years, and the equipment is more comfortable now, says Paul Mitchell, director of marketing at CMH. Fromwiller says, a mammogram might be uncomfortable, but it’s better to know if there is a problem, than to have questions.


• Trauma: People who have experienced trauma, such as sexual assault or harassment may find it hard to have any kind of intimate care.


• Exposure: It is difficult for some people to expose themselves – especially to strangers, even in a medical setting.


• Finances: Some people feel the tests are too expensive, but insurance companies cover the cost of annual mammograms. Columbia Memorial and Providence Seaside hospitals offer many opportunities for getting mammograms if finances are a problem.


In a county that has the second highest rate of all kinds of cancer in the state, it is important to take advantage of the screening that is available.


The Way to Wellville and the Columbia Pacific CCO encourage people to talk to their primary care physicians and follow up with mammograms and other cancer screening when indicated.

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