MyNorth News Service

(Press Release provided by McLaren Northern Michigan)

PETOSKEY:This October, Petoskey’s McLaren Northern Michigan breast cancer support ramps up even more with medical and health information for Northern Michigan. In breast cancer awareness month, the message is that awareness saves lives – maybe yours! Today, over 2.6 million women are living as breast cancer survivors. Increased awareness and regular screenings that lead to earlier detection and treatment are credited, at least in part, for this number.

In 2015, the American Cancer Society estimates that over 230,000 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed, and almost 40,000 women will die from the disease.

“Despite the progress in identifying and treating breast cancer,” stated Elena Coppola, DO, Oncologist at Karmanos Cancer Institute at McLaren Northern Michigan, “there is still a strong need for diligence — in understanding the disease, in self exams and yearly mammograms, and in living a healthy lifestyle. That is the true meaning of awareness.”

Understanding Risk Factors:

Breast cancer awareness starts with knowledge about risk factors, the conditions that could predispose an individual to develop breast tumors:

  • Age is the strongest risk factor and increases as women age; most breast cancer patients are over age 50.
  • Personal and family histories are also strong indicators.
  • Women who have had breast cancer in one breast are more likely to develop cancer in the other breast; having a mother, sister, or daughter who has had breast cancer also increases the risk.
  • Inherited genetic mutations, known as BRCA1 and BRCA2, account for approximately 10% of all breast cancers.
  • Dense breast tissue, relative to fatty tissue; early menstruation before age 12; and reaching menopause after age 55 also contribute to the development of breast cancer.

Men, too, can develop breast cancer, though it is very, very rare and occurs most often in men between the ages of 60 and 70. Men’s tumors can result from exposure to radiation from a prior cancer treatment, having a gene mutation or several female family members who have had breast cancer, or abnormally high estrogen levels resulting from disease or a genetic disorder. Most men’s cases reveal lumps that can be felt, and, while survival rates are similar for both men and women, breast cancer in men is often diagnosed at a more advanced stage when it might be more difficult to treat.

Reducing the risks:

Proven risk factors aside, a significant way to reduce the incidence of breast cancer is to lead a life of overall health and wellness. Maintaining a healthy weight through a balanced diet of whole foods, limiting daily alcohol intake to 6 ounces of wine, or 1 ounce of liquor for women, and participating in a daily exercise routine all help. “We are all ultimately responsible for making good lifestyle choices,” adds Coppola. “Knowing the risks that can be controlled, and making the necessary changes, will help keep the population healthy. This, coupled with self exams and yearly mammograms, will work toward reducing the rates of breast cancer cases and breast cancer deaths.”

Digital Mammography is available in several locations. McLaren Northern Michigan, for example, offers services in Cheboygan, Petoskey, and Rogers City. More advanced imaging services such as Breast MRI and Stereotactic Breast Biopsy are available in Petoskey at McLaren Northern Michigan. Ask your primary care provider or obstetrics/gynecology specialist for a referral. And choose the location closest to you for an appointment. Some locations have free services available for those in need, thanks to McLaren Northern Michigan Foundation donors; call (231) 487-4000 for details.

For those who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, several support services are available. At McLaren Northern Michigan, a full-time nurse navigator guides patients through screening, diagnosis, surgery, therapy, and recovery. “The goal is education and support, empowering patients to make informed treatment decisions throughout the cancer journey,” explains Breast Health Nurse Navigator Melissa DeSimone, Credentials. “We also offer support groups like Look Good Feel Better, a program dedicated to improving self-esteem and quality of life for those undergoing treatment.”

Details about breast health services offered near you and other health-related information, visit or call (800) 248-6777.

For more about National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, visit the American Cancer Society website at

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