HCA North Florida Division - October 06, 2020
by Valerie Kiser, Oncology Services Coordinator, Ocala Health

Over the years, it is almost a certainty that you or someone you know has been impacted by breast cancer. In fact, 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime and according to the American Cancer Society, it remains the second leading cause of death in women in America. Although the breast cancer death rate has dropped—a positive trend in the right direction—the overall incidence rate has edged up slightly.

We highlight Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October for many reasons: to celebrate survivors; to honor those we have lost; and to ensure that individuals take time to learn more about breast cancer and the proactive measures they can take to keep their health a top priority.

To fully understand the impact breast cancer has on the population of Marion County, FL the age adjusted incidence rate is 134.7, well above the state average of 118.4. It is also the second leading cause of death, trailing heart disease as the first, in the county. (Florida Health Charts, 2020).

In response to the global pandemic, state and local governments made recommendations in early March to delay elective care, which included breast cancer screening tests, to increase actions centered on stopping the spread of COVID-19. Those executive orders have been lifted and screenings have resumed; however, many patients have opted to postpone screenings even after the lifting of stay at home orders. This is a concerning trend as we know the significance of health screenings for the early detection of many health concerns, including breast cancer.

Mammography is the most common screening test for breast cancer, and while not a prevention of cancer, it is the best way to detect early cancers. While there are several breast cancer screening guidelines, the American Cancer Society recommends a screening mammography for average risk women:

  • Beginning at age 40 with informed decision making with a health care provider
  • Every year ages 45-54
  • Every 2 years starting at age 55 (or yearly if the woman chooses) for as long as a woman is in good health. (American Cancer Society, 2020)

Ocala Health will be coordinating the following activities to bring awareness to Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

  • Each week, Ocala Health will host a different expert to discuss the topic of breast cancer via Facebook Live. Like “Ocala Health” on Facebook to be alerted of the dates and speakers.

Here are a few tips to help you know when to take action:

  • If you notice any changes in your breast, see a healthcare provider immediately. Do not ignore a lump, node or skin change in your breast. For those who do not have a primary care physician or health insurance, contact the Florida Cancer Program at (850) 245-4330 or by email cancer@flhealth.gov. There are programs available for qualifying candidates to access free or low cost mammograms.
  • Perform monthly self-breast examinations. You know your body best and most likely will be the first to identify changes or concerns. Mark your calendar the first of every month as a reminder.
  • Learn more about breast cancer and the signs. There are several resources available that provide education, support and information. There are national agencies, organizations and groups such as American Cancer Society and National Breast Cancer Foundation. However, The Cancer Alliance of Marion County is a local collaborative effort to communicate and educate the community on cancer canceralliancemc.org.
  • Stay active, eat a healthy diet, quit smoking and avoid excessive alcohol. These healthy lifestyle choices reduce the risk factors associated with breast cancers as well as many other cancers.
  • Nurture and care for your mental health. Incorporate relaxation and stress management into your daily life. Practice meditation techniques, exercise regularly, get regular sleep and rest, talk to a counselor and find support from family and friends. Cancer Treatment Centers of America stated that research has stopped short of concluding that chronic stress causes cancer, but enough is understood about the association to suggest that being in a constant state of stress is a risk factor for cancer and its progression, and that inflammation is likely to blame.

Ocala Health, along with our family of HCA Healthcare hospitals across the nation, have put into place enhanced safety precautions to keep our patients, care teams, and visitors safe. A safe care experience has always been our promise because we are committed to our community. We recommend that you continue to schedule your routine screenings and if you have questions prior to your visit, we are always happy to answer them.

As with any health care decision, you can speak to your primary healthcare provider to discuss the benefits and risks of screening that are specific to you. If you are still uncomfortable attending a patient appointment, call your provider’s office as many offer telehealth options and provide patient information via patient portals.

For more information on breast cancer or cancer care, please visit our Breast Health webpage or call (844) 482-4812 to be connected with Sarah Cannon, the Cancer Institute of HCA Healthcare, to speak to an askSARAH registered nurse specially trained to help with your cancer questions.