October- Breast Cancer Awareness Month

It’s October, and while some are beginning to notice the trees change colors; others are seeing the world through “rose-colored glasses.” This not due to the correlation of living life happily and free of concern, but of the many that support Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  As the most common cancer in women it is important to know the risk factors and manners of prevention. While family history of breast cancer such as in a maternal parent, sibling or child that may come to mind; it must not be forgotten that although not common (less than 1%) it occurs in men as well. In men, the common age that it can occur is 60 to 70 years old but it can still happen at any age. In women, some other risk factors include getting older, starting menopause after age 55, being overweight (especially after menopause), long time hormone replacement therapy (HRT), radiation therapy to the breast/chest, dense breasts, or personal history of breast cancer. There are other risk factors related to family history, genetics, lifestyle, menstruation and motherhood that may also contribute to risk of breast cancer that you can view here.

In a recent study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, African American women tend to grow more aggressive tumors and are 40% more likely to die from breast cancer. Take it from 13 year breast cancer survivor, Tracey Stills “death doesn’t have to be the answer”:

It is crucial to understand that although African American women fall behind White women in incidence (or getting the disease) but are more likely to die from breast cancer more than whites and all other groups. This can be seen in the graphs below with incidence out of 100,000 women in the first graph  and rate of death out of 100,000 women in the second graph .

Line chart showing the changes in breast cancer incidence rates for women of various races and ethnicities.                        Line chart showing the changes in breast cancer death rates for women of various races and ethnicities.                     The CDC recommends that a mammogram screening should be done every two years for women 50-74 years old. If you are age 40-49 or you believe that you have higher risk of breast cancer to ask your health care provider when you should have a mammogram. Please make sure that you don’t apply deodorant, powder or perfume on the day of your mammogram; as they have been found to show as white spots on an X-ray. It is also important that you try not to schedule your mammogram the week before or during your period because your breasts may be swollen and tender at that time.

There are many barriers to checking on your health, however if income is one the CDC’s National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP) will guide you to free or low-cost screenings in your area with certain qualifications. If are between the ages of 40 and 64, with a  yearly income is at or below 250% of the federal poverty level or you don’t have insurance, or your insurance does not cover screening exams you may be eligible.  In the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program, as of July 2015,  the closest location to this area on the South  Side of Chicago is:

* Chicago Family Health Center
Consuelo Ferrer, R.N.
9119 S. Exchange Ave.
Chicago, IL 60617
Phone: 773-768-5000, ext. 1096
* Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs)

For other locations in Chicago and throughout the state of IL, please visit: http://dph.illinois.gov/sites/default/files/publications/ibccpdirectory.pdf

Please know your risks, check yourself, get others involved, donate to research, walk/run, wear your pink, be grateful for survivors and remember those who lost a good fight to breast cancer.

Fallon M. Flowers

Registered Nurse

Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner candidate