Awareness is Necessary

Sisters Network Inc. Estimates 20,000 New Breast Cancer Cases Expected

Joyce Coates, 49, remembers noticing the lump under her left arm eights years while shaving. It was odd because Coates thought she was in perfect health but the lump scared her enough to schedule an appointment. Shortly after, Coates was diagnosed with breast cancer and needed surgery to remove the lymph nodes under her arm and the lumpectomy in her left breast.

After a successful surgery, Mrs. Coates went through a rigorous six weeks of chemotherapy and 30 treatments of radiation. She recalls feeling fine outside of the constipation, nausea, and hair loss, which was the most difficult thing to come to grips with, from the medicine.

Joyce Coates is one of the 2 million breast cancer survivors and like her, many women go extended periods of time without knowing that they carry the cancer. There are an estimated 9.6 million cancer survivors in the United States, approximately 13 percent of the population.

Breast cancer affects all ethnic groups; however, death rates among African American women are the highest among all racial or ethnic populations. According to Sisters Network Inc., the nation’s only African American breast cancer survivorship organization estimated 20,000 newly diagnosed cases of breast cancer are expected to occur among African American women, and 5,700 of them are expected to die from the disease. According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer is the most common cancer among African American women and the second leading cause of cancer death among black women, surpassed only by lung cancer.

Every woman runs the risk of developing breast cancer during her lifetime, and as she increases in age the risk runs higher. Sisters Network Inc. outlined some factors known to increase a woman’s chance of developing this disease.

Personal history

family history

genetic alterations

abnormal biopsy,

pregnancy at a later age

lack of pregnancy

early onset of menses

overuse of hormones

exposure to environmental hazards

However, there are ways to detect breast cancer in its early stages. You may obtain regular mammography screenings from ages 35-40 every one to two years, and annually for women ages 40 plus. You may receive clinical breast examinations by a trained medical professional every two to three years beginning at age 20, and annually after age 40. Also, one may perform monthly breast self-exams, starting at age 20.

April is considered National Minority Cancer Awareness Month. So, if you have not begun regular breast cancer check-ups now is a good time.

As Joyce Coates put it best, "If you are diagnosed with breast cancer is does not necessarily mean you are going to die, if regular check-ups are obtained and the cancer is detected in its early stages, the right steps can be put into action to become a breast cancer survivor."