***image1***The first installment of the Women Over 40 Health Fair was Monday at the Kaiserslautern High School Auditorium.
In a nutshell, think fishing– “When you go fishing, you never know what you’ll catch,” said Col. Kent L. Bradley, LRMC chief of Preventative Medicine. “You may catch the big one. Early health screenings may yield a big catch in the form of a disease.”
Early detection was the theme of the evening. Each LRMC doctor who spoke to the sizeable crowd stressed the benefits of regular health exams and screenings. Many forms of cancer have a greater chance of being erased completely from the body if caught early enough. Left unchecked and allowed to grow strong, recovering from cancer is a different story.
Nearly two million people in the United States are diagnosed with some form of cancer each year. Cancer kills half a million each year.
“The risk of women developing cancer is 38 percent or about one in three,” said Maj. Joseph Flynn, director of the Landstuhl Comprehensive Breast Cancer Center. “When there are such probable odds of developing cancer, it should be of the utmost importance to have regular screenings.”
In 2003, there were 212,600 new cases of breast cancer reported in the U.S. Nearly 60 percent of women over 40 reported having a mammogram in 2004. Major Flynn encouraged the audience members to do their part to get the percentage of mammograms to increase.
“I’ve heard the excuse, ‘Well, my husband is deployed and with the kids I just cannot find time to get to the hospital and get checked,’ said Major Flynn. “I treated three women who put off making an appointment and by the time they finally did make it, one had an 11-centimeter growth in her breast. The other two women had growths of eight and eight-and-a-half centimeters, respectively.”
There is some good news. There has been a 30 percent reduced mortality rate among women ages 50-69 who get an annual or bi-annual mammogram. Breast cancer risk factors include genetics, obesity, oral contraceptives, history of radiation, high-fat diet and abuse of alcohol.
Colon cancer, now the third most common form, boasted 130,200 new cases in 2000. Only about 39 percent of women over 40 get Colon Cancer screenings. It is recommended they get a colonoscopy at least every 10 years.
To prevent skin Cancer and Lung Cancer, stay out of the sun and stop smoking. There are no screenings for lung cancer. The only prevention is to either stop smoking or don’t start. Women 20 to 40 should have a skin exam every three years and every year for women over 40.
The subject of hormone replacement therapy was discussed by Maj. Merlin Fausett, LRMC Maternal Fetal specialist, who posed the question, “Should you take hormones during menopause?” His answer was, “Definitely maybe.”
“There has not been enough testing to have a definitive answer on whether you should or should not take them,” said Major Fausett. “There are, however, historical benefits such as decreased hot flashes, increased collagen and a decreased risk of colon cancer. The bottom line is it’s still controversial, so it’s best to sit down with your doctor before deciding.”
After the lecture period, audience members toured the various booths, getting blood pressure and glucose levels checked as well as having questions answered.
“It’s important because women need opportunities to know what is good for them and what isn’t,” said Twila Bates, a teacher at Kaiserslautern Elementary. “As a civilian, I have few opportunities to get information like this without going to the hospital and paying money to have routine questions like these answered. It’s really a wonderful thing.”