Congresswoman Kristi Noem’s Weekly Column: Knowledge Changes Outcomes

noem press header kristi noem headshot May 21 2014Knowledge Changes Outcomes
By Rep. Kristi Noem
October 23, 2015

This year, nearly a quarter-million women will learn they have breast cancer.  As a result of earlier detection through screenings and awareness as well as advances in treatment options, the vast majority of these women will earn the title of “Survivor.”

In August, I had the opportunity to visit one of the medical centers working to combat this disease in South Dakota.  While there, I spoke with the doctors and nurses about all the ways they are getting information to patients quickly and accurately and how it can help throughout the treatment journey.  New technologies make this kind of information possible and obtainable.

For instance, the medical center I visited uses 3-D mammograms, which provide hundreds of pictures whereas standard mammograms produce just a handful.  As a result, the technology can find “slightly more cancers than standard digital mammograms and … result in 15% fewer false alarms – women called back for more tests and then found not to have cancer,” according to the American Cancer Society.  The improved level of accuracy is important.

The 3-D mammograms are one in a series of technological and scientific improvements that have resulted in better care and higher rates of survival.  The National Institute of Health’s Office of Research on Women’s Health has played a critical role in much of this research and I was proud to lead more than 80 female members of the U.S. House of Representatives in commemorating this agency’s 25th anniversary earlier this year.

Some of the nation’s first female members of Congress advocated for this office to be established as a way to provide more insight into how diseases and medicines work within a woman’s body.  As a result of the research it’s conducted and supported, we’ve taken tremendous steps toward finding a cure for breast cancer, cervical cancer, and much more.  It’s saved the lives of countless women and I’m hopeful it will continue to produce positive results long into the future.

With a better understanding of the disease, we can each have a better understanding of how to detect – and even prevent – cancer.  As we come to the close of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I wanted to share a few of those tips with you.  First, I encourage you to schedule regular screenings.

Be aware of your family history.  If your mother or your sister has had breast cancer, you are twice as likely to develop it.

Take steps to improve your overall health, because staying active and maintaining a healthy weight can make you less susceptible to breast cancer.

Finally, know what to look for.  Lumps, redness, and swelling can all be indications, but don’t wait until you see something to schedule your screening.

I encourage you to take a few minutes this month to learn more about the disease and your family’s history with it.  Has breast cancer impacted your mother, an aunt or one of your sisters?  Have you spoken to your doctor about getting a screening?  Are there ways you can improve your overall health?  Take just one step today; it could make the difference.