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Susan G. Komen for the Cure; The State of Breast Cancer 2012

September 30, 2012 by  
Filed under Feature

by Krysten K. Clark

Since 1982, Susan G. Komen for the Cure has played a critical role in every major advance in the fight against breast cancer – transforming how the world talks about and treats this disease, and helping to turn millions of breast cancer patients into breast cancer survivors.

As we celebrate National Breast Cancer Awareness Month this October, we are reminded of the importance of dispelling myths, fighting fear and ignorance, and educating our mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, nieces and granddaughters about the earliest signs and symptoms of the disease.

In 2012, Susan G. Komen estimated that among U.S. women, there will be 289,870 new cases of breast cancer and 39,510 breast cancer deaths. While rates of breast cancer vary among different ethnicities and age groups, one thing is certain: If you are a woman and getting older, you are at the greatest risk.

For African-American women, breast cancer is the most common type of cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death, exceeded only by lung cancer. Incidence rates in African-American women are lower than in white women overall; however, for women younger than 40, incidence is higher among African-American women.

Putting off your first mammogram until age 50 — which remains the official government recommendation — could have a dangerous effect on African-American women, because we are at a higher risk of developing deadly breast cancers earlier in life. For that reason, it’s extremely important that you follow best practices for breast self-awareness.

Susan G. Komen for the Cure recommends that you:

1. Know your risk

  • Talk to your family to learn about your family health history
  • Talk to your health care provider about your personal risk of breast cancer

2. Get screened

  • Ask your health care provider which screening tests are right for you if you are at a higher risk
  • Have a mammogram every year starting at age 40 if you are at average risk
  • Have a clinical breast exam at least every three years starting at age 20, and every year starting at age 40

3. Know what is normal for you, and see your health care provider if you notice any of these breast changes:

  • Lump, hard knot or thickening inside the breast or underarm area
  • Swelling, warmth, redness or darkening of the breast
  • Change in the size or shape of the breast
  • Dimpling or puckering of the skin
  • Itchy, scaly sore or rash on the nipple
  • Pulling in of your nipple or other parts of the breast
  • Nipple discharge that starts suddenly
  • New pain in one spot that doesn’t go away

4. Make healthy lifestyle choices

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Add exercise into your routine
  • Limit alcohol intake
  • Limit postmenopausal hormone use
  • Breastfeed, if you can

In the past, African-American women were less likely than white women to get regular mammograms. Today, however, African-American women and white women have the same rate of mammography use. Despite this advancement, African-American women are still 41% more likely to die from breast cancer than white women.

Access to care and socioeconomic disparities explain some, but not all, of the lingering survival gap. Differences in reproductive factors and the biology of breast cancers in African-American women also seem to play a role in mortality rates. For example, African-American women have higher rates of pre-menopausal breast cancer and triple negative breast cancers, which have a poorer prognosis, compared to women of other racial and ethnic backgrounds.

Over the past 20 years, great progress has been made in the early detection and treatment of breast cancer. As a result, the number of breast cancer survivors continues to rise. In fact, there are over 2.9 million survivors in the United States today, more than any other group of cancer survivors. In 1980, the five-year relative survival rate for women diagnosed with early stage breast cancer was about 74 percent. Today, that number is 99 percent.

Despite these triumphs, we have a long way to go. We can no longer sit idly by, as our sisters die at alarming rates from this deadly disease. Will you take a stand? Pick up the phone and make an appointment to get screened. Less talk, more action.

For information about information about local screening and treatment, emotional support, and financial resources that can help people living with breast cancer, please contact the Southern Nevada Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure at (702) 822-2324.

We hope to see you all on May 4, 2013 in downtown Las Vegas for the 18th Annual Southern Nevada Race for the Cure!

Krysten Clark is the Mission Manager for the Southern Nevada Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, where she is responsible for grantmaking, breast health education, community outreach and public policy efforts.

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