Special to the Atlanta Daily World
October marks National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Is there cause for celebration? For many reasons, the answer is a resounding "yes." Since 1990, the rate of death from breast cancer has been dropping.
Yet nearly 27,000 African American women were expected to be diagnosed last year with breast cancer, the most common cancer among this group. And although African American women are less likely than white women to be diagnosed with breast cancer, those African American women who do develop the disease are more likely to die from it than women of any other racial or ethnic group in the United States. Part of the reason is that they are more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, when cancer has spread beyond the breast—and when it is more difficult to treat.
Here are some facts about breast cancer:
• Breast cancer is a cancer that forms in tissues of the breast, usually the ducts (tubes that carry milk to the nipple) and lobules (glands that make milk). It occurs in both men and women, although male breast cancer is rare.
• An estimated 226,870 women and 2,190 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States this year. Nearly 27,000 of those diagnosed last year were African American women. But more than three out of four African American women diagnosed with breast cancer will survive at least five years after diagnosis.
• Mammograms are x-ray pictures of the breast that can be used to check for breast cancer in women who have no symptoms of the disease. Don't ignore any symptoms. If you notice any changes in how your breasts look or feel, check with your health care provider. Most changes will not be from breast cancer, but they should always be checked.
• Research has shown that exercise may help lower breast cancer risk. Try to make physical activity a part of your everyday life. Strenuous exercise for as little as 4 hours a week can lower your risk.
• Being obese after you reach menopause may increase your risk for breast cancer. Doctors know that obesity can increase your risk for a number of diseases—so it makes sense to maintain a healthy weight at any age.
• Drinking alcohol can increase your breast cancer risk. If you are concerned, talk with your health care professional about reducing your consumption of alcoholic beverages.