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The American Cancer Society estimates 4,790 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in South Carolina this year. When caught and treated in a very early stage, the survival rate is 99%! Delayed treatment can decrease the survival rate to as low as 25%.

Every woman is at risk for breast cancer and your risk increases with age. Other factors include obesity, taking hormone therapy, alcohol consumption and physical inactivity. African American women are at higher risk.

Collectively, blacks have the highest death rate and shortest survival of any racial/ethnic group in the US for most cancers. More than biological differences, it has been found that the socioeconomic disparities that affect our communities are key contributors. In other words, our challenges getting access to quality care, adequate pay, housing, education, healthy food and overall standard of living in our African-American communities put us at higher risk. In Cherokee County, we are fortunate to have many resources available to us to help bridge those gaps, but we choose to use them.

While monthly self-breast exams are important to early detection, an annual screening mammogram is the one tool proven to increase breast cancer survival rates. According to the American College of Radiology, women with no symptoms of breast cancer should have a screening mammogram every year starting at age 40. Screening mammograms can detect tumors that self-exams or clinical breast exams may miss at their earliest and most treatable stages. While most screenings don’t result in a cancer diagnosis, knowing your results can put your mind at ease.

Technology has advanced greatly. Traditional mammograms are viewed on a x-ray film. There is newer digital technology where mammograms are viewed on a computer. Women under 50 or that have been told they have dense breast tissue should discuss with their doctor if digital mammography is a better option for you.

The Bearden Josey Center @ Spartanburg Regional is a great community resource for breast cancer screening and treatment. If you are concerned you cannot afford a mammogram, Spartanburg Regional has a Mammography Assistance Program that can help.

They provide free and reduced-cost mammography to women who are uninsured or underinsured, and would otherwise be unable to afford this life-saving screening. The Mammography Assistance Program, which began in 2009 with a grant from the Susan G. Komen organization, has funded more than $650,000 of care in Spartanburg, Union and Cherokee counties.

Another excellent resource is the Cancer Association of Spartanburg and Cherokee Counties. They are a 501©(3) non-profit corporation dedicated to providing quality of life services to area residents facing the challenges of cancer in our communities through screenings, education and direct services.

They provide critical supplies to our clients with cancer, including nutritional supplements, bras and breast prostheses, ostomy supplies, counseling, home care supplies, wigs and hats, gas cards for treatment transportation, help with cancer medication costs, loan of hospital equipment– such as wheelchairs, walkers, bedside commodes– and much more. More information is available at cancerassociation.org

Additional resources for more information

Cancer Association of Spartanburg and Cherokee Counties
Screenings, education and direct services
www.cancerassociation.org or call 864-582-0771

Spartanburg Regional Medical Center
Mammography services
https://www.spartanburgregional.com/breast-health/mammography-and-screening-services or call 864-560-7777

Prisma Health
Mammography services
https://www.ghs.org/healthcareservices/cancer/clinical-programs/breast-health-program/ or call 864-522-9729

Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)
Free or low-cost mammography services
www.hrsa.gov/gethealthcare/affordable/index.html

National Cancer Institute
Information on breast cancer screening and treatment
www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/breast or call 1-800-4-CANCER

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Statistics and other information on breast cancer
www.cdc.gov/cancer/breast/ or call 1-888-842-6355

National Women’s Health Information Center
General information on breast cancer and other women’s health issues
www.womenshealth.gov/ or call 1-800-994-9662 or TDD: 1-888-220-5446

American Cancer Society
Information on all forms of cancer
www.cancer.org or call 1-800-ACS-2345