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Women under 40 urged to take control of breast health

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Early detection saves lives! Women under age 40 often are not aware of their own breast health, dismiss a lump as nothing, 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 seek help if they notice changes in their breasts.
Stock photo

Stock photo /Courtesy of Planned Parenthood

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Planned Parenthood of West and Northern Michigan (PPWNM) is encouraging women under 40 to take control of their breast health during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October.  

"Early detection saves lives," said Vice President of Medical Services Bridget White. "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 across the country are under the age of 40. Planned Parenthood 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. Last year, PPWNM medical professionals provided more than 12,000 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. 

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, Planned Parenthood education and outreach programs reach thousands of Latinas every year in 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 about the risk of ignoring potential problems," said White. "Latinas are sometimes reluctant to seek care due to a language barrier or lack of insurance. We want families to know that Planned Parenthood is here to offer affordable breast screening and sexual health care services, helping Latinas, and all women, take control of their health."

To schedule an appointment for an annual exam, which includes breast and cervical cancer screenings, go to to find the health center nearest you.

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