SIKESTON - An estimated 192,200 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year and 40,200 will die from the disease, making breast cancer the second leading cause of cancer deaths in American women.
During October's National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the American Cancer Society strives to let women know that early detection saves lives and increases treatment options. The five-year survival rate for breast cancer is 97 percent among individuals whose cancer has not spread beyond the breast at the time of diagnosis.
No one has to convince Teresa Bye of the importance of early detection. She found a lump in her breast while doing a self exam and today, seven years later, she is a cancer survivor because of it.
"I think since I found my lump there has been more focus on early detection and self breast exams in conjunction with mammograms because you need both, you cannot and should not rely on one or the other. They go hand in hand," stressed Bye, who just last week received another good check-up report from her doctor.
"I also think with people being more conscious of not only breast cancer but of all types of cancer it's being more readily talked about now so people are more confident and comfortable in talking about it. I don't hesitate one bit if somebody asks me about my breast cancer survivor pin to tell people the importance of not only the self exam, but the mammogram and being aware of your body. I think people are more comfortable and more accepting of listening to the preventative measures."
Missouri, too is, doing its part by extending coverage to eligible women with breast and cervical cancer. Gov. Bob Holden recently announced that Missouri women who are diagnosed with breast or cervical cancer under the state's Breast and Cervical Cancer Control Project may now be eligible to receive treatment through the state's Medicaid program. Holden said the federal Department of Health and Human Services has approved Missouri's request to extend Medicaid benefits to these uninsured women.
"Missouri now extends Medicaid coverage to these eligible low-income, medically under served residents of the state who otherwise would not receive treatment," Holden recently stated in a news release. "This is a great step forward in reducing the number of Missouri women who die each year from breast and cervical cancer."
The American Cancer Society estimates that 3,800 Missouri women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year and another 200 will be diagnosed with cervical cancer.
The new treatment act was passed under part of Holden's Women's Health Initiative, which took effect in August. Under the new initiative, Missouri now extends the full Medicaid benefit package to women who are screened through the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services' Breast and Cervical Cancer Control Project and found to need treatment for breast or cervical cancer.
Since the breast and cervical cancer screening program began in Missouri in 1991, with funding provided by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 55,000 Missouri women have been screened for breast and cervical cancers. Of these, 589 women were diagnosed with breast or cervical cancer.
To qualify for Medicaid coverage under this program, women must have a household income less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level, be under age 55, not eligible for Medicaid and without creditable health coverage.
It frustrates Bye to think of any woman not doing self breast exams or having the mammograms when she knows taking the few extra minutes is why she is here today.
"The first thing I'd say to these women is why? It doesn't cost anything to do a self exam. Get in touch with your body, be familiar," Bye urged. "If you're scared, there are people and avenues that you can call to talk you through it. I've even told people that they can talk to me and I'll talk them through it.
"Don't be scared of the unknown. I realize there are a lot of people, I know people who I've talked to, who say I'd just be scared to death and I don't want to know. I just kind of look at them, it's kind of hard for me to understand. You've got to be in tune with your body, you've got to talk about it, you've got to be comfortable with it and you don't have to do it in a degrading manner. Breast cancer touches everybody's life right now."
The ACS encourages women and their families to use its resources which include a 24-hour help line at 1-800-ACS-2345 and a website at www.cancer.org to obtain accurate, unbiased breast cancer information and support.