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Mammograms recommended for early detection of breast cancer

Navy Chief Hospital Corpsman Naomi Perez, a certified mammogram technician, conducts a mammogram for a patient at Naval Hospital Pensacola. A mammogram is a low-dose x-ray procedure used to detect the early stages of breast cancer. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and NHP is taking the opportunity to educate patients about the dangers of breast cancer and the importance of getting checked. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brannon Deugan) Navy Chief Hospital Corpsman Naomi Perez, a certified mammogram technician, conducts a mammogram for a patient at Naval Hospital Pensacola. A mammogram is a low-dose x-ray procedure used to detect the early stages of breast cancer. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and NHP is taking the opportunity to educate patients about the dangers of breast cancer and the importance of getting checked. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brannon Deugan)

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PENSACOLA, Fla. — October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and Naval Hospital Pensacola is taking the opportunity to educate patients about the dangers of breast cancer and the importance of getting checked.

According to the American Cancer Society, one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime, making breast cancer the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women worldwide. Yet breast cancer also has one of the highest survival rates, largely thanks to early detection services such as screening mammograms.

The American Cancer Society estimates that this year approximately 268,000 women and men will be diagnosed with breast cancer and approximately 41,000 will lose their life from it.

“Breast Cancer affects one in eight women in a lifetime and one percent of men,” said Navy Chief Hospital Corpsman Naomi Perez, leading chief petty officer of Internal Medicine Clinic and certified mammogram technician. “Breast cancer does not discriminate. It does not care if you are thin or heavy, rich or poor. A lot of people refer to breast cancer as the silent killer because you can feel fine and have no symptoms, but may still have breast cancer. That is why it is so important to do the annual mammogram.”

A mammogram is a low-dose x-ray procedure used to detect the early stages of breast cancer long before it can be felt and usually years before physical symptoms can manifest. If detected early, breast cancer treatment can be less invasive and more successful. Some warning signs of breast cancer include a lump in the breast or armpit, nipple discharge, any change in the size or shape of the breast or pain in the breast.

The American Cancer Society’s recommended screening guidelines allow women between 40 to 44 years of age the option for an annual mammography; 45 to 54 years of age should have an annual mammogram; and those 55 years of age and older may transition to biennial mammogram or maintain annual mammogram.

“Don’t be afraid of getting a mammogram because the 15 minutes of discomfort is well worth it to add years to your life,” said Perez. “Physical exams are not as thorough as a simple once a year mammogram exam. This 15 minute exam has saved many lives.

“Think of the mammogram as a photograph, and each year a picture is taken that can build a history to compare to previous images to the most recent,” said Perez. “This allows us to detect changes in the tissue over time.”

Michelle Wilkes, a certified breast cancer navigator at NHP, explained that women are never too old or too young to get breast cancer and the earlier the cancer is detected the more successful the patient will be with treatment.

If a patient is diagnosed with breast cancer, Wilkes is available to assist with the treatment and recovery process. She will ensure beneficiaries receive everything they need, both physically and emotionally.

“The purpose of my position is to navigate patients with breast cancers or even breast concerns through this emotional and medically challenging time in their life,” said Wilkes. “Patients diagnosed with cancer are overwhelmed and they need help to navigate the complex medical system.”

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