You know what breast cancer is. And you already know it’s the most common cancer for women. But did you know that, according to the CDC, black women are 40% more likely to die of breast cancer than all other racial and ethnic groups?
Experts point to lots of different contributing factors, such as:
- Black women often have cancers that grow faster and are harder to treat
- They are more likely to have fewer social and/or economic resources
- They are less likely to get prompt follow-up care when they receive less-than-normal mammogram results
- They are less likely to get high-quality treatment
But don’t throw your hands up in the air! It’s not a hopeless situation! Ongoing awareness and research have helped improve breast cancer diagnosis and treatment options for black women. This means higher survival rates, less deaths…and more HOPE!
And…it gets even better. While there are certain factors you just can’t control, like having breast cancer in your family, there is SO much that you do have control over when it comes to breast health.
MUST READ: Breast Health 101
1. Adopt a healthier lifestyle.
This one step cannot be reiterated enough: to live the best life possible, you’ve got to live right. You probably already know what you need to do more of (and less of).
“You’ll help reduce your risk of breast cancer by about 20 percent to 25 percent if you maintain a healthy weight, are physically active, eat a healthy diet, stop smoking and limit alcohol consumption to one drink a day or les,” says Sandhya Pruthi, M.D., Breast Diagnostic Clinic, Mayo Clinic.
MUST READ: Mayo Clinic’s Top Health Tips For Women
2. Be aware of your body.
If you already aren’t, get in the habit of doing regular body checks, including your breasts. Why is this so important? Mayo Clinic advises that the more aware you are of your body, the more likely you are to notice if something is not quite right. For example, when you know how your breasts look and feel, it’s easier to notice things like lumps, thickening of the breast tissue, skin redness or skin dimpling – these are just some of the types of symptoms you need to report to your doctor immediately.
MUST READ: What Are Common Breast Cancer Symptoms?
3. Get. Regular. Screenings.
The idea of a breast cancer diagnosis is a scary thing. So scary that some women avoid being screened regularly. But the problem with this is that, if there is a problem, and it’s not diagnosed until it’s at an advanced stage (which is exactly what happens with a lot of black women), it can tie a doctor’s hands in terms of fighting the cancer and saving a life.
So get screened. Because you need to continue to be beautiful and fabulous for yourself, your family and for the entire world!
According to the American Cancer Society, the basic breast screening rules are:
- Women in their 20s and 30s should get clinical breast exams at least once every three years.
- Women in their 40s and above should get clinical breast exams at least once a year.
- Women in their 40s and older should get a mammogram once a year.
Mayo Clinic supports screening beginning at age 40 because screening mammograms can detect breast abnormalities early in women in their 40s. Findings from a large study in Sweden of women in their 40s who underwent screening mammograms showed a decrease in breast cancer deaths by 29 percent.
Now, did you notice the word “basic?” This is because not all women are the same when it comes to breast cancer. Some women with special considerations need to start their screenings earlier than others, including women with:
- A previous breast cancer diagnosis
- Benign conditions found on breast biopsies
- Dense breasts
- A strong family history of young-onset breast or ovarian cancer in either a maternal or paternal first-degree relative (i.e. a parent, a sibling or a child)
- A history of prior chest wall radiation before age 30 for Hodgkin’s disease
If any of these apply to you, talk to your doctor about the breast screening options and frequencies that are right for you.
MUST READ: Mammogram Guidelines: What’s Changed?
4. Consider preventive breast cancer treatment.
Yes, such a thing actually exists!
Remember the above bullet point about having a family history of breast cancer? 15 percent to 20 percent of breast cancers occur in women with a family history of the disease.
Thankfully, according to Mayo Clinic, there are additional options available that can help save your life:
Chemoprevention. People at high risk can consider this option, which involves drugs such as tamoxifen. The potential breast cancer reduction risk? 50 percent.
Another drug, called raloxifene, has been shown to reduce breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women.
Mastectomy. Otherwise known as breast removal, this procedure received high-profile exposure when actress and comedienne Wanda Sykes chose to have both her breasts removed after she was diagnosed with a stage-zero form of cancer in her left breast.
MUST READ: What Are Breast Cancer Treatment Options?
5. Be aware of hormone therapy risks.
According to Mayo Clinic, menopausal women sometimes use short-term hormone therapy to help manage their menopause symptoms. However, studies have shown that the risk of breast cancer may increase when women take the combination of estrogen and progesterone for four or more years.
For more information on breast cancer, explore the information below or visit Mayo Clinic’s website at www.mayoclinic.org.