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National Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Jennifer Thompson | 10/12/2011, 5 p.m.

African American women are especially vulnerable to breast cancer compared to other ethnicities. When looking at the difference between African American women and Caucasian women, statistics show that not as many African American are diagnosed with breast cancer compared to Caucasian women, but African American women tend to die from it sooner for different reasons. These include not having access to healthcare, and lacking knowledge of things to practice to prevent and stop it before it becomes more aggressive and difficult to treat.

The American Cancer Society says that 90 percent of White women who are diagnosed with breast cancer will live at least five years, but only 76 percent of Black women with breast cancer will live that long. Five years is considered a pivotal mark for a long-term cancer survivor.

The average age suggested by physicians for mammograms may be 50, but according to the American Cancer Society, most doctors believe that early detection tests for breast cancer can save many thousands of lives each year. The American Cancer Society also provides guidelines for the early detection of breast cancer, such as using mammograms, self-examinations, and clinical breast exams, which has improved the chances that breast cancer can be diagnosed at an early stage and treated successfully.

Common risk factors that women should consider are the age of first menstruation and menopause, and a family history of the disease. These are compounded by irregularly doing check ups or not getting a clinical breast exam (CBE), which is a complement to mammograms and an opportunity for women and their doctor or nurse to discuss changes in their breasts.

A clinical breast examination (CBE), which is a physical examination of the breast done by a health professional without the use of a machine, is highly recommended for women starting in their 20s and going into their 50s, to prevent an initial diagnosis after the cells have become abnormal forming lumps and tumors which are difficult to treat.

Waiting to be checked after you have felt lumps in your breast may be too late; it is better to be checked regularly to catch any potentially cancerous lumps early. Women, who may not have access to healthcare, can always practice a self-breast examination at home.

The myths about breast cancer

  • * I'm too young to worry about breast cancer (women of all ages are at risk for developing breast cancer.)
  • * If I'm diagnosed with breast cancer, it means I'm going to die.
  • * If I have a breast lump, it's cancer.
  • * My mammogram was normal, so I don't have to worry about breast
  • * Only women with a family history of breast cancer are at risk. (The majority of women diagnosed with breast cancer don't have a family history of this devastating disease.)
  • * I have to wait until I'm 50 to get tested for breast cancer. (The National Cancer Institute recommends that women age 40 or older should have screening mammograms every 1 to 2 years.)
  • * Men cannot be diagnosed with breast cancer.
  • * Breast cancer is contagious and can be passed on quickly.
  • * I've survived over five years with breast cancer, so the cancer must be gone.
  • * Vitamins and dietary supplements can help treat breast cancer.
  • * I had a mammogram, and I need further examination. I must have cancer.
  • * Breast implants causes breast cancer.