Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in American women, and the second leading cause of cancer death in women. In fact, research shows that the average risk of a woman in the United States developing breast cancer sometime in her life is about 12 percent — that’s a 1 in 8 chance of developing the disease. African American women, in particular, have the highest risk of being diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer.
In 2017, The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates about 252,710 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women in the United States. While around 63,410 new cases of carcinoma in situ (CIS) — a non-invasive and is the earliest form of breast cancer — will be diagnosed. Of those cases, about 40,610 women will die. Furthermore, it’s estimated that 2,470 men in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer.
The silver lining? The ACS reports that due to many advances in treatment, “there are more than 3.1 million breast cancer survivors in the United States. This includes women still being treated and those who have completed treatment.”
We’re all aware that an unusual lump can be a red flag. But, did you know there are other symptoms that can point to breast cancer – such as changes in the skin or nipple?
“Being aware of changes of your breast is the key to identifying signs or symptoms that could be related to breast cancer,” Dr. Nina Watson, a board certified diagnostic radiologist at a top academic hospital in New York City, specializing in breast imaging and breast cancer diagnosis, tells BlackDoctor.org.
“This could include changes of the skin, such a dimpling of the skin or the skin becoming very thick and changing color. They could also include changes of the nipple (sticking in, when it used to stick out), fluid coming out of the nipple, particularly if it is bloody, or flaking or thickening of the skin around the nipple. If you notice any of these, it is important to see your doctor right away.”
So, how does one stay one step ahead?
Perform a breast self-exam – from just about anywhere, even the shower.
“There are several ways to perform a breast self-exam. It can be done in the shower or while lying on the bed, with your arm raised above the head,” said. Dr. Watson. “You can move your hand in a circular motion to exam your breast, while applying light, medium, and heavy pressure. Of the most important thing in performing a self-breast exam, she said, “make sure that you cover all of your breast tissue. Areas that women sometimes forget to include are the underarm area and behind the nipple.”
Of course, mammogram is also a must. The American Cancer Society recommends the following cancer screening guidelines:
Women ages 40 to 44 should have the choice to start annual breast cancer screening with mammograms (x-rays of the breast) if they wish to do so.
Women age 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year.
Women with a history of family breast cancer (which puts them in the high risk category) should have their first mammogram 10 years before the age their family member was diagnosed.
Women 55 and older should switch to mammograms every 2 years, or can continue yearly screening.
All women should be familiar with the known benefits, limitations, and potential harms linked to breast cancer screening.