With the upcoming election being front and center, and so much attention given to the coronavirus, it seems as if there’s nothing else to talk about. Well, I’d like to turn your attention to another very important topic: October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and if you’re a woman of a particular age, your health care provider has probably already notified you to schedule your mammogram—remember, early detection saves lives!
Breast cancer affects all women, but Black women are dying at a higher rate. These are the facts, according to Breast Cancer Prevention Partners:
A US woman’s lifetime risk of breast cancer is 1 in 8.
Breast cancer has the highest mortality rate of any cancer in women between the ages of 20 and 59.
African American women have a 31% breast cancer mortality rate – the highest of any U.S. racial or ethnic group.
Among women younger than 45, breast cancer incidence is higher among African American women than white women.
Younger women in general, and younger African American women in particular, are more likely to present with the triple-negative subtype of the disease, a subtype that is both more aggressive and associated with a higher mortality.
Over the past 20 years, despite the universal drop in mortality rates, we have seen a rise in the incidence of breast cancer in African American women. In particular, disparities between mortality rates for white and black women have grown significantly. The mortality rate for black women diagnosed with breast cancer is 42% higher than the comparable rate for white women. Triple negative breast cancer is diagnosed more often in American women of African descent than in those of European descent in the United States.
Did you know that skin lighteners, nail polish, and even fragrances contain chemicals that are directly linked to breast cancer? And you can reduce your risk for breast cancer diet, exercise, and avoiding alcoholic drinks? In fact, a simple self-exam, performed monthly, is good habit for detecting breast cancer early. I’m encouraging all women to schedule your annual check-ups, and to perform their own breast self-exams by following these simple steps:
Check for visual changes like dimpling, size, or discharge from nipples by striking a pose, bending forward, or putting your hand on your hips while standing in front of a mirror.
Lie flat on your back and with one hand over your head, use the three middle fingers of the other hand to feel for lumps by pressing small circles in a swirling or up and down motion.