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Breast Cancer and Black Women

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Breast Cancer and Black Women

African Americans have higher death rates from breast cancer

Breast cancer is the second most common cancer in women, and is found in one in eight women in the United States. It is a group of diseases in which cells in the tissues of the breast become abnormal and divide without order or control. These malignant cells form too much tissue and become a tumor. The tumor can grow into nearby tissue or cells break away and enter the bloodstream or lymphatic system eventually affecting other organs. Getting a mammogram (x-ray of the breast) can help find the cancer early. This gives a woman more treatment options and makes it more likely she will survive the cancer.

African-American women are more likely than all other women to die from breast cancer. Their tumors often are found at a later, more advanced stage. So, there are fewer treatment options. Some other reasons for this may include not being able to get health care or not following-up after getting abnormal test results. Other reasons may include distrust of the health care system, the belief that mammograms are not needed, or not having insurance. Also, research has shown that African-American women are more likely to get a form of breast cancer that spreads more quickly.

Signs and Symptoms

New lump in the breast or armpit
Thickening or swelling of part of the breast
Irritation or dimpling of breast skin
Redness or flaky skin in the nipple area or the breast
Pulling in of the nipple or pain in the nipple area
Nipple discharge other than breast milk, including blood
Any change in the size or the shape of the breast
Pain in any area of the breast
Screening and Diagnosis

There also are things you can do to find breast cancer early. Breast cancer screening looks for signs of cancer before a woman has symptoms. Screening can help find breast cancer early when it’s most treatable. Three tests are commonly used to screen for breast cancer:

Clinical breast exam. A clinical breast exam is an examination by a doctor or nurse, who uses his or her hands to feel for lumps or other changes.
Mammogram. A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast. Mammograms are the best method to detect breast cancer early when it is easier to treat and before it is big enough to feel or cause symptoms. Having regular mammograms can lower the risk of dying from breast cancer. If you are age 40 years or older, be sure to have a screening mammogram every one to two years.
Breast ultrasound. A machine uses sound waves to make detailed pictures, called sonograms, of areas inside the breast.
Treatment

Biopsy This is a test that removes tissue or fluid from the breast to be looked at under a microscope and do more testing. There are different kinds of biopsies (for example, fine-needle aspiration, core biopsy, or open biopsy).
Chemotherapy Using special medicines, or drugs to shrink or kill the cancer. The drugs can be pills you take or medicines given through an intravenous (IV) tube, or, sometimes, both.
Radiation The use of high-energy rays (similar to X-rays) to kill the cancer cells. The rays are aimed at the part of the body where the cancer is located.
From the Office on Women’s Health and the American Community Health Advisory Committee

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BHM Edit Staff