Q: Should I do a breast self-exam every month? What else should I do to check for breast cancer?
Dr. Rosario Guzman, Family Medicine, Aloha Primary Care Physicians & Associates: Doing a self-check regularly can be a good way to become familiar with your own breast tissue, so you are more likely to notice any changes. However, doing a self-exam should not be a substitute for regular breast cancer screenings.
If you choose to do a self-exam for your own awareness, try to check your breasts around the same time each month. Do a visual examination to look for changes, and then use the pads of your fingers to feel the breast tissue, following a pattern to cover every area of each breast.
Most medical organizations recommend that women between ages 50 and 74 who have an average risk of breast cancer get a mammogram every two years. If you’re between the ages of 40 and 49, or if you’re at higher risk, talk with your doctor about how often you should be screened.
You don’t need a referral from a doctor to get a screening mammogram. In fact, federal law says that any woman who wants to be screened for breast cancer can self-refer. At Maui Memorial Medical Center, that means any woman can call our imaging department at (808) 243-3012 and make an appointment.
If you don’t have insurance, our Maui Health Foundation may be able to help you get a free screening mammogram. Since 2005, Maui Health Foundation has helped more than 1,160 women on Maui, providing more than $404,675 in life-saving breast cancer screenings.
This month kicks off Maui Health Foundation’s annual October Kokua 4 A Cause fundraising campaign, in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, to raise money to continue to support under- or uninsured women in Maui County. Unlike most other breast cancer fundraisers, Kokua 4 A Cause funds stay on Maui to support the Maui mothers, daughters, sisters and friends that we love. Please consider donating or creating/joining a Kokua 4 A Cause team and help fund a mammogram for a Maui woman in need. For more information, visit mauihealth.org/kokua.
* Physicians, providers and administrative staff who practice at Maui Health System hospitals and clinics answer questions from the public in “Healthwise Maui,” which appears on Thursdays. Maui Health System operates Maui Memorial Medical Center, Maui Memorial Medical Center Outpatient Clinic, Kula Hospital & Clinic and Lana’i Community Hospital and accepts all patients. To submit a question, go to the website at mauihealth.org/healthwise.