As October comes to a close, I wanted to touch on Breast Cancer Awareness and the importance of all women being vigilant and active after October 31st. In the past I’ve found myself caught up in the hype of “pink this” and “pink that,” all while questioning if these “proceeds” were really going toward breast cancer research and support and who is keeping them accountable. That’s an entirely different post so I digress.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2010 there were 206,966 women and 2,039 men diagnosed with breast cancer. Of those diagnosed that year, 40,996 women and 439 men died as a result of the disease. More so, breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women and the 2nd leading cause of cancer deaths and it doesn’t have to be.
Below you will find seven tips that women can use to stay proactive in the fight against breast cancer beyond October.
- Keep weight under control
- Get and/or stay physically active
- Watch alcohol consumption
- Avoid hormone replacement therapy (typically used to treat symptoms of menopause)
- Be attentive to changes in breasts by performing self-breast examinations at least once a month
- Know your family history
- Set your OWN rules!
I know you’re wondering about that last one…set your own rules?
Statistics show that although breast cancer deaths are decreasing among white women, black women are still more likely to die as a result of the disease. Per the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, women between the ages of 50-74 years of age should have a mammogram every two years and women under the age of 50 should consult their provider. However, I say OWN your body and set your OWN rules. Don’t leave your fate in the hands of someone else, especially as it pertains to black women.
Facts about black women, health care and cancer:
- Black women tend to have cancers that are more aggressive
- Black women tend to have cancers that are harder to treat
- Black women tend to have cancers that grow faster
- Black women are more likely to have fewer social & economic resources than other women
- Black women are less likely to seek immediate follow-up care when mammograms show abnormal results
- Black women are less likely to get high-quality treatment when diagnosed with cancer (could be the reason for the previous)
The list can go on and on about the inequalities and iniquities that exist in the health care system especially as it pertains to people of color. However, we must still be vocal and demand that we receive superior treatment. Because African-American women are more likely to die from cancer, we can’t follow the “rules.” We have to pay attention to our bodies and demand quality care. If your breast feels different and your physician insists that you wait until you’re 50 for an exam then get a new doctor. Simple as that! OWN your health and be accountable for it. Additionally, make sure you’re familiar with many of the numerous signs of breast cancer. Here are some symptoms to look out for:
- 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
- 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
Again, ladies we need to OWN our bodies and not allow someone else to tell us what’s best. We walk around with our bodies everyday of our lives and we know when we don’t feel right. Don’t ignore it or pray that it goes away.
In efforts to practice what I preach, I’ll be getting my first mammogram this winter at 35. My doctor insists that I’m too young but as I told him, “I’m too young to die, too!” My biggest fear is that I will wait until … and then it’s too late. Don’t you be that person either. Sit down and decide what’s best for you.
Finally, think beyond the pink. Yes, the pink is pretty but don’t buy into the hype for 31 days and the remainder of the 334 days you bury your head in the sand. That is not OWNing your body or your life so get with it starting NOW!
If you can’t afford to get a mammogram, head over to the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP) for more information on how to get low-cost and free screening in your area.
Do you do breast self-exams? If so, how often?