New York, NY – Planned Parenthood, the nation’s leading women’s health care provider and advocate, is encouraging women under 40 to take control of their breast health during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
September 26, 2012
“Early detection saves lives,” said Dr. Deborah Nucatola, senior director of medical services, Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “Women under 40 too often aren’t aware of their own breast health, dismiss a lump as something that doesn’t need attention, or are paralyzed by fear. Waiting can change the course of a woman’s life, and that’s why Planned Parenthood is urging women to see their health care professional if they notice a change in their breasts.”
Planned Parenthood doctors and nurses play a unique role in delivering health care to young women, as 94 percent of Planned Parenthood patients are under the age of 40. Our health care professionals help young women understand the screening that’s best for them as well as the factors that can reduce their breast cancer risk — including getting regular exercise and limiting alcohol intake.
One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. Though women under 40 make up a small portion of the total number of women diagnosed with breast cancer every year, when cancer does occur it is often aggressive.
Clinical breast exams are the first line of defense for providers in detecting breast cancer in most young women. Each year, Planned Parenthood doctors and nurses provide nearly 750,000 breast exams. Like most ob/gyns and primary care physicians, if a Planned Parenthood health care provider finds an abnormality during an exam, the patient is referred to a breast specialist for further examination, which may include diagnostic tests, like an ultrasound or biopsy. Planned Parenthood’s newly established diagnostic grant program helps to cover the costs of these tests for patients when possible, as the tests can be costly, especially for uninsured and low-income women.
Gabrielle Union, star of the new BET drama Being Mary Jane and Planned Parenthood breast health advocate, strongly encourages women to be their own best breast expert.
“Fear is what prevented my dear friend Kristen from getting a breast abnormality checked out — and that fear cost Kristen her life,” said Union. “National Breast Cancer Awareness Month is a time to take action and educate ourselves and our friends, so that if something doesn’t feel right, you talk to a doctor or nurse as soon as possible.”
Studies show Hispanic Americans tend not to get screened for common cancers, such as breast cancer, as regularly as non-Hispanic whites. And Hispanic women are 20 percent more likely to die from breast cancer when compared to non-Hispanic white women when diagnosed at a similar age and stage. Committed to reducing these disparities, the Planned Parenthood promotores (community health worker) program reaches thousands of Latinas every year in 16 communities across the country, raising awareness of the importance of screening and preventive care.
“Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among Latinas, and improving health outcomes starts with educating women and their families on the risk of ignoring potential problems,” said Nucatola. “Latinas are sometimes reluctant to seek care due to a language barrier or lack of insurance. Planned Parenthood promotores are educating Latinas in their communities about the importance of screening and connecting women to health care services, helping them take control of their health.”
In August, Planned Parenthood announced an expansion of its breast health education, outreach, and services across the country. The expansion was made possible by an outpouring of donations from the public after Susan G. Komen for the Cure stopped providing grants to Planned Parenthood because of intense pressure from political groups and then quickly reversed course earlier this year. The expanded program gives more women access to educational resources and services to help them identify potential breast health issues early.
One in five women in America has turned to Planned Parenthood at some point in her life for health care.To date, 47 Planned Parenthood affiliates have applied for and received funding to expand their breast health services to cover the costs of diagnostic follow up care. To learn more, go to plannedparenthood.org/breast-health.