High rate of breast cancer cited County releases report on health

October 21, 1992|By Lan Nguyen | Lan Nguyen,Staff Writer

Howard County women have the highest rate of breast cancer in the Baltimore area, according to a report released yesterday that focuses on key health concerns in the county.

The report, the first step in devising a countywide health plan, also showed that the overall cancer death rate in the county is slightly higher than the national rate.

In other categories, county residents fared better: they ranked below the state and nation in deaths from heart attack and lung cancer.

"In general, we are a healthy community, partly because of the affluence we enjoy," said the county health officer, Dr. Joyce Boyd.

The report was released yesterday to leaders and officials who met at Howard County General Hospital's Health Education Center to discuss the county's health needs, problems and priorities.

"Along the way, we're going to reach out to the community at large and go on road shows to share with them the statistics," said Marilyn Maitland, co-chair of the Health Initiative Team, an advisory group to the county Board of Health.

The next step is an April 3 conference where residents, business leaders and county officials can meet to discuss plans to deal with the county's health issues.

The report also showed:

* 45 out of 100,000 residents die of lung cancer, the leading cause of cancer deaths.

* 28 of 100,000 women who live in Howard County die of breast cancer, according to a preliminary report from the Maryland Cancer Registry. Howard has the highest incidence of breast cancer in the Baltimore area, 106 of every 100,000 women, the registry said.

* 125 out of 100,000 residents die of heart disease. The Health Initiative Team's goal is to reduce that number by 25 by the year 2000.

* About one-third of the 11,000 people who are hospitalized in the county each year are senior citizens.

"Not only do they stay longer, but they have more serious problems," Dr. Boyd said.

* 3 percent -- or 7,000 residents -- don't have health insurance. About one-third of them are children.

"It's amazing the statistics that came out of here," County Executive Charles I. Ecker said after the meeting. "The general community should be aware of it. It's a concern to us all."

One goal already set by the Health Department would address the number of pregnant women who smoke -- 40 percent of pregnant women who go to county health clinics are smokers. The department would like to reduce that by half, Dr. Boyd said.

The report included a survey that the Health Initiative Team sponsored to gauge residents' feelings about health problems and priorities within the county. More than 600 residents were surveyed in telephone interviews, focus groups and written questions. About half were female, and 64 percent of those polled were adults aged 30 to 59.

The survey found that residents were most concerned about heart disease, alcoholism, drug abuse and cancer.

Health insurance for the poor and a day-care center for the elderly also ranked as important needs, according to the survey.

The responses also indicated that residents, for the most part, engage in healthy activities.

According to those who were polled, more than 83 percent don't smoke, 93 percent try to eat a nutritionally balanced diet and 65 percent brush their teeth two to three times a day. In addition, 60 percent see a doctor for regular checkups, and 54 percent get seven to eight hours of sleep a night.

Among other findings, women, particularly those 45 and older, are more likely to get regular checkups. Men in the 18-to-44 age group see doctors only when they are sick.

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