Breast cancer mortality is decreasing for black and white women, especially among younger women. However, even though death rates are going down, we need to do more to level the field.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

by Sara Jackson, MiCAFE Network Specialist

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. During this month and a few weeks leading up to the beginning of October, you will start to see a lot of bright pink items on the shelves in just about every store you go in. These items are to help bring attention to Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Many families are affected by this awful disease each year, some more often than others, and this month is all about awareness of the disease as well as preventative measures. Breast cancer doesn’t affect just the individual, it affects the whole family.

My family was affected by this disease in 2011, when my grandmother was diagnosed with the disease. It was her second time being diagnosed with it, but it was in a different area this time. She had to have the cancerous tissue removed as well as start radiation. Due to her age, the doctors didn’t think chemotherapy would be a good idea due to the side effects that go along with it. She was prescribed a radiation pill to take on a daily basis. Since she had the tissue removed and started taking the radiation pills, it wasn’t too long before we heard the word REMISSION. Thankfully, my grandmother has been cancer free for 5 years now. I like to think that my family and I are some of the lucky ones since she is cancer free because we know that a lot of other people aren’t so lucky.

In 2015, the number of deaths in the U.S. from breast cancer was 40,290, with the most being women 80 years and older. Also in 2015, the number of invasive cases was 231,840. This means that this number of women had the cancer start in one area of the breast and it broke through to surrounding areas of the breast. With some of these statistics in your head, you may start to ask a few questions, what are the symptoms and what can I do to prevent it?

  • What are the symptoms?
    • Breast cancer usually produces no symptoms when the tumor is small and is most easily treated. If the cancer has grown to a size that the woman can feel it, it usually appears in a painless lump in the breast. Some of the less common symptoms are breast pain/ heaviness, persistent changes to the breast, such as swelling, thickening, or redness of the skin on the breast, and some nipple abnormalities, such as unprompted discharge that could be bloody, erosion, or retraction.
  • What can I do to prevent it?
    • According to the American Cancer Society, women should do the following:
      • Woman with an average risk of breast cancer should undergo regular mammogram screenings starting at the age of 45.
      • Women who are age 45 to 54 should be screened annually.
      • Women who are age 55 and older should transition to biennial screening or have the opportunity to continue screening annually.
      • Women should have the opportunity to begin annual screening between the ages of 40 and 44.
      • Women should continue mammogram screenings as long as their overall health is good and they have a life expectancy of 10 years or more.
      • The Society doesn’t recommend clinical breast exams for breast cancer screenings among average-risk women at any age.

For more information about breast cancer, visit the American Cancer Society, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, or view more statistics in the American Cancer Society Breast Cancer Facts & Figures 2015-2016.

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