(Good Things Utah) According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), breast cancer is the second-most common cancer among women in the United States. It’s also the leading cause of cancer death among Hispanic women.

The best form of cancer treatment is early detection, and mammograms are the best way to catch breast cancer early. Unfortunately, women in Utah are getting screened at a much lower rate than the rest of the country – by an estimated 8%.

How are health practitioners in the state addressing this problem?

This is what’s called a health disparity, or a preventable difference in how a range of medical conditions, everything from injury to disease, affects different population groups. These health disparities, unfortunately, exist in all places, age groups, and backgrounds.

One of the ways you address a health disparity is by consciously targeting it.

For example, at Optum Care, their Mobile Clinic offers mammograms among many other services. The Mobile Clinic service area covers 10 counties throughout the state, including Salt Lake, David, Box Elder, Cache, Morgan, Summit, Tooele, Utah, Wasatch, and Weber.

The actual hours and locations vary, and they work with community partners including physicians’ offices, community and senior centers, and even local businesses and shopping centers.

What are the most common symptoms of breast cancer?

Often, breast cancer is painless and without symptoms, especially in its early stage.  When symptoms are present, they can vary from person to person. Some symptoms include:

  • New lump in breast or underarm (armpit)
  • Changes in size or shape of breast
  • Thickening or swelling in parts of the breast
  • Pulling in of the nipple or pain in the nipple area
  • Pain in any area of the breast
  • Nipple discharge other than breast milk, including blood
  • Irritation or dimpling of breast skin
  • Redness or flakiness in nipple and/or breast

If you have any of these symptoms, it’s important to be evaluated. However, any of these symptoms can be related to conditions that are not cancer, including fibrocystic breast condition, benign cysts, weight gain, getting your period or taking certain medications.

Are there risk factors to be aware of?

Some women develop breast cancer without other known risk factors. On the other hand, having risk factors doesn’t necessarily mean you will get breast cancer.

Knowing the risk factors can help you address the ones you can change. It can also help determine your risk based on the ones you can’t, which in some circumstances may impact preventive care measures and screening recommendations.  

Risk factors that cannot be changed include:

  • Aging – risk increases with age
  • Changes to certain genes (mutations)
  • Personal history and family history with breast cancer
  • Some types of non-cancerous breast diseases – having other breast diseases may increase a woman’s risk of getting breast cancer.
  • Your reproductive history
  • History of radiation therapy
  • Breast density

Some risk factors that can be changed include:

  • Being overweight or obese after menopause
  • Not being physically active
  • Taking hormones
  • Your reproductive history
  • Alcohol consumption

Research also suggests smoking, exposure to cancer-causing chemicals, and changes in hormones due to night shift work may increase risk.

Is there anything I can do to reduce my risk?

Some general ways of taking care of your health may help lower your risk of breast cancer. These preventive steps include:

  • Getting regular exercise and keeping a healthy weight
  • If you have a baby, breastfeed if possible.
  • Talk to your doctor if:
    • You have a family history of breast cancer, inherited changes in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene(s), or
    • You are taking hormone replacement therapy or oral contraceptive medications
  • Avoid or limit alcoholic drinks

In addition to keeping yourself healthy and potentially reducing the risk of getting breast cancer, these healthy habits may be able to improve your chances of surviving cancer if it occurs.

So how often should women get mammograms?

There are some differences of opinion on screening guidelines including when patients should start receiving mammograms and how often mammograms should be done. Individuals must have a discussion with their doctor about what is right for them. Risk factors can also determine which screening you have and how often.

Once someone receives a diagnoses, what’s the treatment?

Breast cancer can be treated in multiple ways depending on the kind of cancer and how far it has spread. In some instances, people require more than one kind of treatment.

Choosing the right type of treatment is an individual decision and can be a tough one. Talking to your doctor about your specific kind and stage of cancer can be helpful. It can also be helpful to get an opinion from more than one cancer doctor, called a second opinion.

Some common treatments are:

  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Biological
  • Hormonal therapies
  • Radiation therapy

If you want to learn more, including more information on specific stops and making appointments, you can call 800.638.5841, or visit optumcare.com/mobileclinic.

**This segment contains sponsored content