The Importance of Breast and Cervical Cancer Screenings (Breast Cancer Awareness Month)

By Taneia Surles, MPH
Happi Health

Throughout the month of October, pink ribbons are seen across social media, in healthcare facilities, and donned on t-shirts to represent Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Breast Cancer Awareness Month has been nationally recognized for over four decades to raise awareness about breast cancer and discuss the importance of yearly mammograms.

Breast cancer, the second most common cancer amongst American women, affects around 255,000 women annually in the United States and causes about 42,000 deaths each year. Breast cancer primarily affects women but is found in every 1 in 100 men (CDC, 2021). Risk factors for breast cancer includes women aged 50 and older, changes in family history of breast conditions, inherited genes, obesity, and other genetic and behavioral reasons.

Signs and symptoms of breast cancer are (Mayo Clinic, 2022):
• Lumps in breast or thickening of breast tissue
• Change in size, shape, or appearance of breasts
• A newly inverted nipple
• Crusting, flaking, peeling, or scaling around the nipple or on breast skin
• Redness on the breasts

While breast cancer in certain cases is not preventable, there are ways to reduce the chances of developing cancer or detecting it before it progresses into later stages.

Here is how to take preventive measures against breast cancer:
• Get regular breast cancer screenings from a healthcare provider
• Do self-check exams at home
• Adopt a healthy diet

“Screenings should start at age 40 but may start earlier if there is a family history or if you have certain genes that increase that risk,” said Danielle Barnes, a CRNP at HAPPI Health. “Screening is recommended once a year, although some experts recommend twice a year.”

It is important for women to receive cervical cancer screenings, which are done with a Pap smear and HPV test. Cervical cancer screenings reduce the chances of developing cervical cancer. “Per the CDC, screenings should start at age 21,” said Barnes. “Patients can refer to the CDC or ACOG for guidelines on how frequently they should get them.”

“At HAPPI Health, we offer women’s healthcare services, which includes annual women’s health visits that can cover STD screening, Pap smears, pelvic exams, and HPV tests. In addition, patients can seek healthcare for other health concerns like birth control, vaginal dryness, and UTIs.” — Danielle Barnes, CRNP

Danielle attended The University of Alabama at Birmingham and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing in 2008. She graduated from Troy University in 2017 with her Master of Science in Nursing. She previously worked as a registered nurse and travel nurse before becoming a board-certified nurse practitioner through the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners in July 2017 and has been working at HAPPI as a family nurse practitioner since September 2017. She is also a published author and released her first book in 2019. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, and reading.

Breast cancer – Symptoms and causes. (2022, April 27). Mayo Clinic.
Breast Cancer Awareness. (2021, September 22). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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