In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month, the Cancer Care Center at Pen Bay Medical Center reminds Midcoast residents that early detection saves lives.

Breast cancer affects everyone. Most people have a friend or family member who has been touched by the disease, directly or indirectly. The chance of a woman's having invasive breast cancer sometime during her life is about one in eight and right now there are more than 3.1 million breast cancer survivors in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society's Breast Cancer Facts and Figures, 2015-2016.

It is estimated that in 2016, invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in 249,260 men and women in the United States. (Yes, men get breast cancer too.) In Maine, it is estimated that there will be 1,310 new cases of female breast cancer in 2016. The American Cancer Society reports in its Cancer Facts and Figures 2016 that breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women, second only to lung cancer.

Leading a healthy lifestyle is one of the keys to reducing risk, but that alone cannot guarantee a cancer-free life. Breast exams should be part of your health care routine, along with screening mammograms.

When found early, breast cancer is likely to be smaller and is less likely to have spread to other parts of the body. This provides more treatment options and makes it more likely to be curable. Screening mammograms help find breast cancer before any symptoms appear, oftentimes before a woman can feel it.

Pen Bay Medical Center now uses 3D mammography, which offers an improved cancer detection rate by 41 percent for more invasive cancers. While the exam itself is no different than a regular digital mammogram, it makes a layered 3-dimensional image, giving much more detail for the radiologist to review.

For those who are afraid they may not be able to afford a mammogram the Maine Breast and Cervical Health Program will pay for a screening mammogram and/or a clinical breast exam for those with little or no health insurance. Call 800-350-5180 and press 1 for more information.

Some useful websites are:

Pen Bay Cancer Care Center:


American Cancer Society:

National Cancer Institute: