Summer has faded into the distance and Friday night lights have taken hold in every hamlet, big and small, in Middle Georgia. The months of 2018 are falling away like the colors of the leaves. It’s October — and before we know it — another year on the odometer will soon turn, if we live to see it.
October is also Breast Cancer Awareness Month and according to the American Cancer Society, the awareness campaign, along with earlier detection, has lowered the risk of death for women from breast cancer, by 38 percent between the late 1980s and 2014.
But there are other statistics that haven’t budged. Breast cancer remains the second leading cause of death in women behind lung cancer. And while 297,300 fewer women have died from breast cancer over the last two decades or so, the risk factors facing women in Fellowship Bible Baptist Church and all the other African-American women we know are still ever present.
African-American women have a death rate that’s 42 percent higher when compared to white women. Breast cancer is nothing to be played with. Here are some facts to share with the women in your life.
For 2017, The American Cancer Society estimates that in the United States there are:
- About 252,710 new cases of invasive breast cancer were diagnosed in women.
- About 63,410 new cases of carcinoma in situ (CIS) were diagnosed (CIS is non-invasive and is the earliest form of breast cancer).
- About 40,610 women die from breast cancer. While black and white women get breast cancer at roughly the same rate, black women are more likely to die from it.
At this time, there are more than 3.1 million people with a history of breast cancer in the United States. (This includes women still being treated and those who have completed treatment.)
- Smoking may slightly increase breast cancer risk, particularly long-term, heavy smoking and among women who start smoking before their first pregnancy.
- Obesity increases the risk of postmenopausal breast cancer. Risk is about 1.5 times higher in overweight women and about 2 times higher in obese women than in lean women.
- Growing evidence suggests that women who get regular physical activity have a 10 percent to 25 percent lower risk of breast cancer compared to women who are inactive, with stronger evidence for postmenopausal than premenopausal women.
- Numerous studies have confirmed that alcohol consumption increases the risk of breast cancer in women by about 7 percent to 10 percent. It’s pretty obvious that early detection is important for all women.
Here are the American Cancer Society’s recommendations:
- Women between 40 and 44 have the option to start screening with a mammogram every year.
- Women 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year.
- Women 55 and older can switch to a mammogram every other year, or they can choose to continue yearly mammograms. Screening should continue as long as a woman is in good health and is expected to live 10 more years or longer.
- All women should understand what to expect when getting a mammogram for breast cancer screening — what the test can and cannot do.
The recommendations above are for women with an average risk for breast cancer, but what about women who are at a higher risk and how does she know if she falls into that segment?
First factor leading to higher risk is family history. A woman should get an MRI and a mammogram every year, typically starting at age 30. This includes women who:
- Have a lifetime risk of breast cancer of about 20 percent to 25 percent or greater, according to risk assessment tools that are based mainly on family history
- Have a known BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation (based on having had genetic testing)
- Have a first-degree relative (parent, brother, sister, or child) with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation, and have not had genetic testing themselves
- Had radiation therapy to the chest when they were between the ages of 10 and 30 years
- Have Li-Fraumeni syndrome, Cowden syndrome, or Bannayan-Riley-Ruvalcaba syndrome, or have first-degree relatives with one of these syndromes
So in between football games and other fall activities, ask the women in your lives a few questions. Ask them have they had their annual mammogram? Stress how important they are to you and how much you want to keep them around for as long as God will allow.
For more information go to https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer.html
Written by Charles E. Richardson