October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, an annual campaign to increase awareness of the disease.
Breast cancer is a type of cancer that starts in the breast. Cancer starts when cells begin to grow out of control. Breast cancer cells usually form a tumor that can often be seen on an x-ray or felt as a lump. Breast cancer occurs almost entirely in women, but men can get breast cancer, too. It’s important to understand that most breast lumps are benign and not cancer (malignant). The most common symptom of breast cancer is a new lump or mass. A painless, hard mass that has irregular edges is more likely to be cancer, but breast cancers can be tender, soft, or round. They can even be painful. For this reason, it’s important to have any new breast mass, lump, or breast change checked by an experienced health care professional. Other possible symptoms of breast cancer include:
- -Swelling of all or part of a breast (even if no lump is felt)
- -Skin dimpling (sometimes looking like an orange peel)
- -Breast or nipple pain
- -Nipple retraction (turning inward)
- -Nipple or breast skin that is red, dry, flaking or thickened
- -Nipple discharge (other than breast milk)
- -Swollen lymph nodes (Sometimes a breast cancer can spread to lymph nodes under the arm or around the collar bone and cause a lump or swelling there, even before the original tumor in the breast is large enough to be felt.)
Remember that knowing what to look for does not take the place of having regular mammograms and other screening tests. Screening tests can help find breast cancer early, before any symptoms appear. Certain breast cancer risk factors are related to personal behaviors, such as diet and exercise. Other lifestyle-related risk factors include decisions about having children and taking medicines that contain hormones. Some risk factors for breast cancer are things you cannot change, such as getting older or inheriting certain gene changes.
Although Black women get breast cancer at a slightly lower incidence rate (3%) than white women, Black women are 40% more likely to die of breast cancer and are twice as likely to die if they are over 50 (via African American Women and Breast Cancer).
To learn more about breast cancer, early diagnosis, treatment and more, go to https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer.html
For more specifically on Black women and breast cancer, check out the African American Women and Breast Cancer page at https://www.bcpp.org/resource/african-american-women-and-breast-cancer/
For information about men and breast cancer, https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer-in-men.html.