Humboldt General Snaps on Pink Gloves for Breast Cancer Awareness

Things will soon look a little rosier than usual than usual at Humboldt General Hospital.

Beginning October 1, staff members will trade in their regular latex gloves for pink ones—a show of solidarity against breast cancer, the second-leading cause of cancer death among American women.

"During October, the pink gloves will be a simple reminder that early detection really is the best protection," said HGH Administrative Director of Radiology Pam Wickkiser. "We now understand that if caught early, breast cancer is entirely treatable, which is why breast cancer screenings are so important."

Wickkiser said the most important screening test for breast cancer is the mammogram, an x-ray of the breast that can detect breast cancer up to two years before a tumor can be felt.

Doctors recommend that women age 40 or older who are at average risk of breast cancer should have a mammogram once a year; women at high risk should have yearly mammograms along with an MRI starting at age 30.

"Mammograms really are the key to a solid, early clinical diagnosis," said Wickkiser, "especially digital mammograms."

In recent years, mammograms have gone from analog, black and white films to digital, allowing doctors to enlarge images and even rotate them to look at abnormalities more closely. Being able to control the images makes digital mammograms more accurate for most women.

"Digital mammography has really revolutionized mammography in general," said Wickkiser, who introduced the new technology to Humboldt County in 2012. "We are thrilled with this new technology and the advantages it is giving our patients."

Wickkiser said she hopes this month's donning of the pink gloves will direct women toward the crucial screening.

"I don't think it's fear that prevents women from getting their annual mammogram, but lack of time. Women are so busy taking care of everybody else that they don't always prioritize themselves," she said.

"If you look at the statistics, a vast majority of women don't rate their mammogram experience as bad. They feel it is inconvenient, but not uncomfortable or embarrassing."
For those women who have had a bad mammography experience, however, Wickkiser said they should inform the technician, who will offer suggestions on how to be more comfortable and lessen any anxiety.

In the United States, breast cancer is second only to lung cancer as the leading cause of cancer deaths among women. In 2011, only 51.2 percent of women aged 40 and older in the U.S. reported getting a mammogram.

"The consequences of missing out on screenings may mean a later diagnosis, which could also lower chances of survival," said Wickkiser. "Digital mammography is a simple yet very effective tool in the early detection of breast cancer."

She added, "Choose to act during Breast Cancer Awareness Month or, even better, choose to act in your birthday month. This is the most important gift you can give yourself. It truly is a reason to celebrate."

For more information on Humboldt General Hospital's digital mammography system or to schedule a mammogram, please call the HGH Radiology Department at (775) 623-5222, ext. 1130.