DeKalb women get more checkups

By Nina Gougis

More DeKalb County women are getting regular mammograms than their statewide counterparts, probably due to increased breast cancer awareness and education, health officials said.

DeKalb County is above the state average for the percentage of women age 40 and older who have had mammograms. The Illinois average is 85.7 percent, compared to DeKalb’s 90 percent, according to the American Cancer Society.

The higher percentage could be the result of the DeKalb health community’s effort to inform the public of the importance of breast exams and mammograms, said Peggy Newby, public health nurse for the DeKalb County Health Department, 2550 N. Annie Glidden Road.

Health officials encourage women to learn how to detect breast cancer early during October’s National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

The breast cancer awareness movement took off in 1984 and is sponsored by 17 national public service organizations and government agencies, including the American Cancer Society and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Although breast cancer’s cause is unknown, women are most susceptible to the disease. Women are 100 times more likely to get it than men, according to the ACS Web site.

Early detection is key to successful treatment said Jennifer Briggs, cancer programs manager at the Batavia ACS office. Regular mammograms for women older than 40 provide that early detection, she said.

The DCHD provides free mammograms through a federal grant for uninsured or low-income women over age 40 and free pap smears for women over age 35, Newby said.

Even with this program, Newby said some women do not get mammograms because of limited funds or fear of finding cancer.

“Sometimes, they believe that what they do not know will not hurt them,” Briggs said. “But the fact is that there is a 96 percent survival rate if the cancer is found early.”

Women from 40 to 50 should receive a mammogram every one to two years, and women older than 50 should receive them annually, according to a DCHD public service announcement.

Women younger than 40 should do a self exam and have an annual exam by a physician, Newby said.

Conducting self breast exams, Newby said, is important for young women because it will help them know what is normal for their bodies. Knowing what is normal will help them recognize something out of the ordinary, like a lump, she said.

Newby also said most lumps found in the breast are not cancerous. However, if one is found, a woman should address it immediately, she said.

In honor of the awareness month, the DeKalb Area Women’s Center, 1021 State St., will display a bulletin board of current newspaper articles related to breast cancer and offer information brochures, said DAWC board member Anna Marie Coveny.

For more information, call the Batavia office of the American Cancer Society at 800-ACS-2345 or visit the ACS Web site,