Among many other things,October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Have you gotten your mammogram yet? Do you do regular self-examinations on your breasts? Do you know what to feel for? Do you know your family history—both maternal and paternal sides? Did you know that you can still be at risk for breast cancer, even if there is no family history? Did you know that men could get breast cancer, as well?
These are all questions that we should be asking ourselves; especially in the African American community where the percentage rate of mortality is much higher than any other race. Breast cancer claims more lives amongst African American women than any other race of women. Many reports indicate that this is due to a lack of an early diagnosis. By the time most African American women are diagnosed with the disease, it is well into a higher stage, which comes with a less favorable outcome.
Early detection can help prevent a higher rate of mortality. Unfortunately, early detection and a correct diagnosis and treatment have not been the norm for many African American women, and even African American men. The truth as to why, can be as simple and heart wrenching as the continued socioeconomic disadvantages that many in the African American community are faced with each day.
Without frequent physicals, proper nutrition, and the availability of facilities in close proximity to their community, many African Americans will not receive the proper care and education to prevent, or to identify the signs, or properly diagnose the presence of cancer.
It is vitally important that we come together in the African American community and help educate and inform our communities on breast cancer. In those communities that do not have access to health clinics, and are less likely to go the distance for physicals, unless it is an emergency, we must provide them with as much access to medical care as possible.
The truth is, many African American communities have seen the continued decline in healthcare facilities within their neighborhoods. Most do not have access to any kind of care, unless it is at the emergency room. The majority do not have the means to travel the distances when it comes to getting regular check ups. So, most end up bypassing their yearly physicals and mammograms.
Early detection and preventive care is imperative to the survival of breast cancer. We should start early in our self-examinations, looking for any lumps and changes in our breasts. In our late 20's to early 30's we should be scheduling breast exams at least every three years. In our late 30's to early 40's we should be having yearly breast exams and base mammograms. From that point on, we should have yearly mammograms and whatever other tests based upon previous findings.
There are typically four stages of cancer that we most often hear about. And the percentage rate of survival is based upon the stage of cancer that is found. Stage one has a 98% survival rate, while stage two has 88%, stage three a 56-49% survival rate, and stage four, a 16% rate.
As a whole, the African American community must take it upon ourselves to educate and inform one another about breast cancer. Chances are great that you know someone who either has breast cancer or has been affected by breast cancer. When you are armed with the right knowledge, you are given a fighting chance to prevent or even beat cancer.
It is not necessarily the end of your life if you should find that you have breast cancer. Many strides have been made in treating breast cancer. The best thing you can do is get with your doctor and your family, and come up with a plan of action.
Be informed of all avenues of treatment available to you and what you feel is best for you. Breast cancer does not have to be a death sentence. Especially in the African American community, where we can begin to educate and promote programs that will help our communities get the help that is needed.