Here's some incentive to get a mammogram

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Many women feel they deserve a reward after getting a mammogram -- and now they are going to get it.

The Mon-Vale HealthPLEX is sponsoring "Mamm and Glamm" on March 2 at its Rostraver facility. After getting a mammogram, women will be treated to a mini-massage, hand wax and hand massage and have their nails polished. A continental breakfast or lunch bar, free baby-sitting and information on other health screenings will be available. Participants also will be eligible for gift certificates from local businesses, said Mary Ann Konsugar, manager of the HealthPLEX imaging center.

"We women often put ourselves last," Mrs. Konsugar said. "We take care of our kids, our husbands and our parents before we worry about our own health. ... A lot of women fear coming here. They are afraid, and we think women doing it in a group makes it more comfortable," she said.

"We have skilled professionals who are excellent. Yes, it is uncomfortable, but for most women, it is not painful."

Organizers said many people believe that most women who develop breast cancer have a history of it in their family or high risk factors, but the opposite is true. Nearly 75 percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history and are not considered high risk, according to the American College of Radiology.

Kathy Cameron, 58, of New Eagle, is one of those women. She had no history of breast cancer in her family and got regular mammograms at Monongahela Valley Hospital. In 2009, a radiologist at the hospital detected a small spot on her mammogram X-ray and it turned out to be malignant. She had surgery and 10 weeks of radiation and is free of cancer today. She gets regular checkups and is a strong advocate for annual mammograms.

"You just have to do it," she said. "I went for 14 years and was clear, and then I got it. Luckily, the radiologist detected it early. You just never know." She said early detection is well worth any temporary discomfort from a mammogram.

The exams can detect changes in the breast as much as two years before a doctor or patient can feel them, and the earlier a cancer is detected the better the success from treatment.

"The survivor rate if breast cancer is caught early, before it spreads to the lymph nodes, is almost 100 percent," said Walter Cox, an obstetrician and gynecologist with Mon Valley Hospital's Women's Health Center. "And today, most women don't have to lose a breast, either."

Dr. Cox is aware of the national debate over whether women should get mammograms every year or every two years, and his practice recommends annual mammograms for women 40 and older.

He said national studies may show a low percentage of women who get breast cancer for every 1,000 mammograms, but if you are one of those women, he said, the annual test is worth it. The American Cancer Society recommends women get annual mammograms starting at age 40 -- even if they have no symptoms or family history.

According to the Monongahela Valley Hospital, of every 1,000 women who receive a mammogram screening, five are diagnosed with breast cancer.

Dr. Cox said high risk factors for women getting breast cancer include not having children and not breast-feeding. In addition, he said, smoking is a risk factor for many cancers.

The National Cancer Institute indicates mammogram rates have been dropping nationwide. The institute's Cancer Trends Progress Report found that in 2010, 66 percent of women age 40 and older had a mammogram within the past two years, a drop from 70 percent during a period from 1998-2003.

As a breast cancer survivor, Mrs. Cameron has become a strong supporter of the new oncology center at Mon Valley Hospital.

Her husband is the girls soccer coach at Ringgold High School, and the team held a Pink Out, with the players wearing pink socks and the referees wearing pink. A raffle and auction were held, raising $900 for the oncology center, she said. An event at the Monessen Firemen's Club over Christmas raised another $750 for the center.

Mrs. Konsugar came up with the idea for the "Mamm and Glamm" event.

The Rostraver HealthPLEX is the main site for mammogram screenings through the Mon Valley Hospital and is in WillowPointe Plaza, just off Route 51.

Women coming to the Mamm and Glamm event should schedule a mammogram appointment between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. by calling 724-379-1911. They will need a prescription from their doctor.

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Debra Duncan, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.


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