Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among African-American women and the leading cause of cancer death for African-American women ages 45 to 64 years old. According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the breast cancer death rate for women ages 45 to 64 years was 60 percent higher for African-American women than white women.
This cancer divide in the United States is eye-opening. According to a recent New York Times article, the survival rates in the 1980s for the two were identical. But, the gap began to widen starting in 1991 as improvements in screening and treatment came into use. Although breast cancer is diagnosed far more in white women, African-Americans are far more likely to die of the disease.
During Breast Cancer Awareness month, it’s important to point out the lesser-known facts about this disease and how it affects all women, specifically African-American women. Here are a few of the most important points:
• Breast cancer tends to appear in African-American women at a younger age and in more advanced forms.
• African-American women are actually two times more likely to develop an aggressive form of the disease called triple negative breast cancer. This form tends to grow and spread more quickly than most other types of breast cancer.
The best overall preventative measure for breast cancer is to reduce known risk factors as much as possible by avoiding weight gain and obesity, engaging in regular physical activity and minimizing alcohol intake.
Many women with early breast cancer may have no symptoms at all. That’s why self-exams and screenings by a doctor are so critical. Make sure to have your provider show you how to perform monthly breast self-examination (BSE) and perform it faithfully at the same time each month. Also, determine whether or not you have dense breasts. If so, insist on a digital mammography or any of the newer more advanced technologies that help detect tumors.
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