Amid a sea of pink ribbons, participants in a breast cancer awareness class heard about facts and services available for breast cancer detection and treatment at Clarity Healthcare on Tuesday, Oct. 13, during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Amid a sea of pink ribbons, participants in a breast cancer awareness class heard about facts and services available for breast cancer detection and treatment at Clarity Healthcare on Tuesday, Oct. 13, during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Clarity Healthcare Family Nurse Practitioner Andrea Hawkins demonstrated proper self-examination techniques, answered questions about breast cancer and shared facts and services available in the Hannibal area. Area medical providers have a wealth of information, modern techniques and new technologies aimed at the disease.

Hawkins said people should perform breast self-examinations so each person knows exactly how their breasts should look and feel. Hawkins also dispelled some misconceptions surrounding breast cancer — both men and women can develop breast cancer, but it occurs more frequently to women. Also, some patients expect a lump will be easy to find.

“Some people are looking for a big, obvious spot,” Hawkins said. “It’s much more subtle.”

Often, a lump could be the size of a pea, a BB or a grain of sand. Hawkins emphasized the importance of regular self-examinations at home, and making sure each person is aware of any abnormalities, pain or changes in appearance, including a new spot on the skin.

Hawkins passed around breast models — courtesy of the James E. Cary Cancer — containing simulated lumps for each participant. She stressed the importance of yearly mammograms and PAP tests for women and physical examinations for men, as part of regular detection procedures. A person should tell their doctor if anything seems different, Hawkins said.

Participants from Preferred Family Healthcare asked and answered a variety of questions during the presentation, learning a wealth of facts about breast cancer.

“I wasn’t expecting that men can get it that fast,” Adam Ronimous said.

“If you feel a lump, you have to tell the doctor everything, instead of holding back,” a fellow attendee said.

Mark Conover, VP of Health Services at Clarity Healthcare, said uninsured patients can seek detection options through the Show Me Healthy Women program, part of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. The program provides free breast and cervical cancer screenings to Missouri women who meet certain income and insurance criteria.

The Missouri Department of Social Services also offers the MO HealthNet Division, which can provide wellness exams and age-appropriate breast exams to Missouri residents, Conover said.

Detection and treatment technology constantly evolves, and one example of this is 3D Mammography, Hawkins said.

Hannibal Clinic’s 3D mammography uses multiple two-dimensional images —taken from multiple angles — to create a three-dimensional representation of the breast’s inner architecture. This new technology, when combined with a conventional 2D mammogram, has a 40 percent higher detection rate for invasive cancer than conventional 2D mammography, according to information provided by Hannibal Clinic Director of Marketing and Physician Recruitment Ginny Webb. Despite the evolving technology and safety, some misconceptions remain.

Medical Director of Radiology at Hannibal Regional Hospital Dr. Joel Hassien said some people might avoid regular mammograms because they heard the procedure was painful or that the radiation involved wouldn’t be safe. Staff members take measures to keep the patient as comfortable as possible, and the amount of radiation generated by the digital equipment is low. The benefits are far greater than the risks, Hassien said.

Hannibal Regional Hospital also offers accurate treatment options, including a SPECT-CT Scanner nuclear medicine unit, which allows radiologists to isolate and remove a single cancerous lymph node, rather than multiple nodes as in the past. Also, stereotactic breast biopsy capability allows medical professionals to reach a diagnosis through a tiny incision in the skin, Hassien said. He emphasized that breast cancer detection is a “team effort” between the patient and doctor, and he recommended a three-part approach.

Hassien emphasized the “triple-touch” method for detecting breast cancer — a yearly scanning mammogram, monthly self-examinations and a yearly clinical breast exam with a doctor.

“Those three things together significantly increase the chance of finding an early cancer,” he said.

Reach reporter Trevor McDonald at trevor.mcdonald@courierpost.com