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October 15, 2013

Black women more at risk of poor outcomes from breast cancer

ALBANY — Staff report

ALBANY— Getting screened, eating healthy, exercising regularly and knowing their family history make women less vulnerable to breast cancer, which a new study shows is most likely to kill women of color, said Southwest Georgia Health District Health Director Dr. Jacqueline Grant.

“Government statistics show about 232,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013,” Grant said. “And this year, 39,000 women are expected to die from the disease.”

Excluding some types of skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women — regardless of race and ethnicity — in the United States, according to the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Research has previously shown that African-American women diagnosed with breast cancer had worse outcomes than other women, but recent data showed just how much more at risk they are, Grant said.

“A recent Harvard study found that within three years of a breast cancer diagnosis, African-American women were 50 percent more likely to die,” she said. “Shortly after that study, research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that black women are less likely to survive a breast cancer diagnosis within five years because they undergo fewer screenings, have poorer health at the time of diagnosis and their cancer is more advanced by the time it is found.”

Grant also noted that black women also continue to be more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer before age 40, and to die from it at any age, compared to other women.

“October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month,” she said. “Know your risk factors. Talk to your health care provider about ways to lower your risk.”

Breast cancer screenings, or mammograms, are important because checking a woman’s breasts before she is having symptoms of breast cancer is the best way to find and treat the disease early.

Grant also listed some warning signs of breast cancer:

· A lump or pain in the breast

· Thickening or swelling in part of the breast

· Irritation or dimpling of breast skin

· Redness or flaky skin on the breast

· Pulling in of the nipple or pain in the nipple area

· Fluid other than breast milk from the nipple, especially blood

· A change in the shape or size of the breast

For more information about breast cancer, go online to www.southwestgeorgiapublichealth.org.

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