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It’s October! Are you due for a mammogram?

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The U.S. Preventive Task Force recommends that you get a mammogram every other year from age 50 to 70.

“Appropriate screening allows us to detect cancer early, before it spreads,” says Dr. Tanya Kapka, a CareOregon medical director. “Getting screened gives you peace of mind.”

Tell your doctor if other women in your family have had breast cancer. This may affect when and how you are screened, Dr. Kapka says. If there’s a history of breast cancer in your family, share that information with younger women in the family, so they can talk to their doctor.

Breast cancer is scary, but mammograms don’t have to be.

“Staff is highly trained and knows to reduce discomfort,” says Dr. Kapka. “The procedure is quick, just a few minutes for most women.”

In the United States, breast cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers. Surviving it has significantly improved over the past few decades, says Dr. Kapka, because of improvements in treatment and earlier detection.

Some steps you can take may reduce your risk of breast cancer. Fortunately, these actions also reduce risks for the leading causes of death among women: heart disease and stroke.  

Maintain a healthy weight. Talk with your doctor about a healthy weight for you, based on your age and health condition.

Stay physically active. At almost any stage of health, there are activities that can help you improve fitness. If you have limited mobility, your doctor may be able to identify activities you can do in your home.

Eat fruits and vegetables. Have at least five servings a day, and more is better. A serving is a half-cup, or the amount that could fit in the palm of your hand.

Quit smoking--or don’t start. Oregon offers resources to help you quit: toll-free 800-QUIT-NOW (800-784-8669) or 855-DEJELO-YA (855-335-3569); TTY 711. If you’re our member, tell the operator you are an Oregon Health Plan member.

Limit alcohol. Health guidelines suggest that women limit themselves to an average of one drink per day. You and your doctor may discuss what’s best for you, based on your overall health.

If you don’t remember the last time you had a mammogram, talk with your doctor about scheduling one at your annual well-woman visit.

“Regular screening saves lives,” says Dr. Kapka.

Ride to medical appointments

Members of the Oregon Health Plan can get a ride to their mammogram if they need help with transportation. Jackson Care Connect members can call Translink, 888-518-8160.

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