Breast cancer is the second most common kind of cancer in women and the most commonly diagnosed cancer among African American women. About 1 in 8 women born today in the United States will get breast cancer at some point. It has the highest mortality rate of any cancer in women between the ages of 20 and 59. However in women younger than 45, breast cancer incidence is higher among African American women than White women.
The good news is that most women can survive breast cancer if it’s found and treated early. A mammogram – the screening test for breast cancer – can help find breast cancer early when it’s easier to treat.
The first symptoms of breast cancer are usually an area of thickened tissue in the breast or a lump in the breast or in an armpit. Other symptoms include a pain in the armpits or breast that does not change with the monthly cycle, pitting or redness of the skin of the breast, like the skin of an orange, a rash around or on one of the nipples, a discharge from a nipple, possibly containing blood, a sunken or inverted nipple, a change in the size or shape of the breast, peeling, flaking, or scaling of the skin on the breast or nipple. Most lumps are not cancerous, but women should have them checked by a health care professional.
During this COVID-19 pandemic, people with breast cancer or being treated with breast cancer need to be very careful not to get the disease. Some breast cancer treatments — including chemotherapy, targeted therapies, and immunotherapy — can weaken the immune system and possibly cause lung problems. People who have weakened immune systems or lung problems have a much higher risk of complications if they become infected with this virus.
All women can help reduce their risk of breast cancer by avoiding weight gain and obesity, engaging in regular physical activity and minimizing alcohol intake. Women should consider the increased risk of breast cancer associated with combined estrogen and progestin hormone therapy use when evaluating treatment options for menopausal symptoms. In addition, recent research indicates that long-term, heavy smoking may also increase breast cancer risk, particularly among women who start smoking before their first pregnancy. Regular checks and screening help detect symptoms early. Always discuss your options with your doctor.