October marks Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Vidant Health took the opportunity to promote the importance of early detection, recognize all the fighters and survivors, and honor those lost who lost their lives to the disease.

According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, breast cancer is the most common cancer in American women, and it is estimated that in 2021, approximately 30 percent of all new cancer diagnoses in women will be breast cancer.

Early detection

Early detection is crucial and Vidant provides access to advanced screening tools like 3D mammography – the most advanced imaging tool available to detect breast cancer.

Dr. Mahvish Muzaffar, a medical oncologist at Vidant Medical Center (VMC), sat down with WITN to discuss the importance of these screenings. According to the American Cancer Society, screenings have dropped significantly since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Muzaffar said according to one study, there was a nearly 90 percent drop in breast and cervical cancer screenings. She said the drop was substantial in rural America and among ethnic minorities.

“We know that this may translate into an additional 10,000 lives lost, by conservative estimates, just because of that delay (in screenings),” Dr. Muzaffar said.

She said there are many safety measures in place to protect against COVID-19 when visiting doctors and getting regular cancer screenings.

Women between age 40 and 44 have the option to start screening with a mammogram every year. Women age 55 and older can switch to a mammogram every other year or they can choose to continue yearly screenings.

Visit Vidant’s Events page to see upcoming screening events throughout eastern North Carolina.

Know the risk factors

Knowing your risk factors for any illness or disease is crucial. Understanding what to look for if you are high risk can help save lives. Jennifer Lewis, outreach coordinator with Vidant Cancer Care, said breast cancer is no different as she joined WITN to discuss risk factors.

“When you do have a first-degree relative which is a sister, mother or daughter, that does double your risk of developing breast cancer,” Lewis said.

Other risk factors include age, as the likelihood of developing breast cancers increases as you get older, alcohol consumption, smoking, weight and lifestyle, and hormone therapies after menopause.

While these steps are important in limiting your chances, the most important thing you can do is contact your primary care provider if you notice any changes.

Wear Pink Day

Each year, Vidant team members across the health system participate in Wear Pink Day to celebrate all breast cancer survivors and to show support and solidarity to those who are still in the fight.

The East Carolina University women’s basketball team showed their support by stopping by VMC to hand out pink ribbons to team members, patients and families at the Eddie and Jo Allison Smith Tower.

View photos from the event below.

To learn more about Vidant’s breast cancer services and connect with care teams, visit Vidant Cancer Care’s web page.