JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas --
The 59th Medical Wing is hosting a series of breast cancer awareness events during the month of October at Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center.
A Breast Cancer Health Awareness Fair will be held on Oct. 17, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the C and D wings of WHASC. Personnel will be distributing information pamphlets, pink ribbons, and answer questions.
In addition, the wing will conduct routine walk-in mammogram screening on Oct. 5 and Oct. 19 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Women’s Health Clinic.
“These events are a great way to raise public awareness about the fight against breast cancer,” said Maria O’Berry, a mammographer in the Women’s Health Clinic. “We like to emphasize during Breast Cancer Awareness Month that women should be getting their yearly screening mammogram and should be doing regular self-breast exams.”
In order to be seen at the walk-in screening, patients must be at least 40 years old, Tricare eligible, have no symptoms at the time of their screening, have been seen by their PCMs within the last 24 months and their last mammogram must be more than 12 months old.
There is no referral necessary if the patient’s primary care provider is within the JBSA system. However, if the PCM is from outside the JBSA system, or any civilian provider, the patient must have a script, or referral, from that provider.
“Just because you come in doesn’t mean you have a problem,” explained Tech. Sgt. Leona Rodriguez, Mammography Course supervisor. “However, if you do have an issue arise, you have a much better chance reducing the possibilities of a full mastectomy or a bunch of chemotherapy.”
The screening exams are supplemental to patients engaging in regular self-care.
“We are now pushing a lot more information toward just looking at your breasts, not just feeling your breasts but looking at them,” said Rodriguez. “Patients need to make sure their breasts look the size they would normally look, nipples aren’t going inverted, their skin isn’t thickening, or for red areas that look flaky or has an elevated temperature. It’s an overall wellness check for your breasts, instead of focusing only on the palpitation feeling of a breast exam.”
Breast cancer awareness is not just for women because men can also be at risk.
“Eighty percent of men were not aware they could get breast cancer,” said Rodriguez. “They also have a lot of the same risk factors as women do with family history. There is a link with hormonal levels, and as always, there are environmental factors.”
Among the environmental factors is an individual’s alcohol consumption, amount of physical exercise and eating habits. O’Berry said Gynecomastia is a common male breast disorder. It is characterized by a growth of cells right behind the nipple. The condition can cause men to have more breast tissue than what they normally have, and it can be treated if diagnosed in a timely manner.
In order to get their diagnosis, all WHASC patients – men and women – who come in for mammograms have access to the 3D imagers in the Mammography Clinic.
“It’s a fantastic, futuristic technology that we are blessed to have here,” said Rodriguez. “With this technology, we can gain a much better understanding of what’s going on with the breast tissue. So, if a patient does get called back, we know we are looking at something specific.”
Unlike the 2D imaging, Rodriguez and O’Berry said the 3D imaging machines at WHASC “slice” the image into 11 pieces for a more detailed look at the patient’s breast, reducing any false or inconclusive results for patients and allowing them the opportunity to make more informed decisions about their healthcare.
The push to inform to all patients is what drives the 59th MDW personnel to host the health fair and mammogram screenings.
“We like to provide our patients with information because the more they have, the more empowered they are over what they choose to do,” said Rodriguez. “That’s especially important because there’s so much mixed information out there right now. Ultimately, we want them to be educated, not misled.”