DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — It’s National Women’s Health Week.

The annual campaign, which runs May 8-14, encourages women and girls to reflect on their individual health needs and take steps to improve their overall health.

Women can achieve better health by maintaining a healthy weight, staying active, creating good sleep habits, and practicing self-care for mental health. Another way is scheduling annual physical and health appointments, which includes preventative care such as mammograms.

“Breast cancer screening and specifically screening with mammography is incredibly important for early detection of breast cancer,” said Dr. Karen Johnson.

Johnson is the division chief of breast imaging at Duke University Hospital.

“Studies have shown that if we can catch breast cancer before it becomes palpable, then it’s less likely to have spread, less likely to be metastatic, and therefore she will have a better outcome, more likely to live, be less invasive, less treatment, less surgery,” Johnson said.

Breast cancer is the second most common cancer among women in the united states, according to the CDC.
For most women who are considered at average risk, doctors recommend starting mammograms at age 40 and doing so on an annual basis.

“There are some women who may be at higher risk of developing breast cancer, and if you don’t know that, then you might want to talk to your doctor about doing a formal genetic assessment of some sort,” Johnson said. “Then, if you’re at a higher risk of developing breast cancer, the recommendation might be to start at an earlier age.”

Doctors also encourage breast self-awareness or knowing what’s normal for your breasts.

“Most women will have normal lumps and bumps in their breasts,” Johnson said. “So, understanding what your normal expected lumps and bumps are is important so that way if something new develops, you can be the one to pick it up and bring it to our attention.”

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