September 30, 2014

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

By Senator Lena C. Taylor

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month; breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among African American women. 1 and 9 African American Women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Odds are, in our lifetime we will all know someone who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of death among women, with about 40,000 women in the U.S. expected to die per year from breast cancer. African American women die at higher rates than White women.

Some of the major contributing factors to this disparity are late diagnosis, poor access to health care, and a lack of awareness. Fortunately, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which helps bring attention to this easily diagnosed and treatable form of cancer. During this month it is important that we help those women who have been affected by inspiring hope and those who may be affected by promoting education. While some risks of breast cancer are unavoidable such as family history, it is essential that you do all you can to prevent health risks. The best way to do this is to live a healthy active lifestyle and getting a year mammogram.

It is vital that every person, especially women, know the symptoms and signs of breast cancer. Some of these signs include a change in how the breast or nipple feels, a change in the breast or nipple appearance, or any form of nipple discharge. These symptoms are not always a result of cancer, but if you do experience any of these symptoms you should see a healthcare provider immediately so that they can diagnose or treat any problems. It is important to take part in regular screenings; you and your doctor should frequently perform physical examinations. If you are diagnosed with breast cancer it means that you have a ‘malignant’ or cancerous tumor, there are also two types of non-cancerous or benign breast cancer tumors. It is also possible that your malignant tumor can spread to other parts of the body, usually through the body’s lymph system and form secondary tumors, in which case you would be suffering from metastatic cancer.

If diagnosed with breast cancer it is important to then focus on the treatment of it, as this particular type of cancer is very treatable.  The first step for someone diagnosed is to choose a doctor that can help to guide you through your breast cancer treatment decisions. The most common form of treatment for breast cancer is surgery. The options include a lumpectomy, partial mastectomy, radical mastectomy, and reconstruction which all involve removing the tumor and nearby margins from the breast.  Other forms of treatment include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, and targeted therapy. Even after treatment for breast cancer it is essential to continue regular check-ups to ensure that changes of your health can be noted immediately.

It is my hope that with more education and awareness we can continue to lower the rate of deaths in our community from breast cancer. I urge you to make all the women in your life get their yearly exam. Knowledge is power, the sooner the disease is detected the better the chances of survival.