Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer detected among women in the U.S. African-American women have higher death rates from breast cancer than any other racial or ethnic group. The research shows that this may be due to being diagnosed later and waiting longer to receive follow-up care. This is why routine screening is a very important step in the early detection of breast cancer.
All women are at risk for breast cancer and the risk increases as you grow older. Besides age, there are other factors that may increase your chances of developing breast cancer.
Some of these factors include having a family history of breast cancer, having inherited changes on specific genes such as the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, never having had children, or having your first child after the age of 30.
Breast cancer may not cause any symptoms in its early stages, however, as it develops, symptoms may include:
• A lump, hard knot, or thickening in the breast or underarm area
• New pain in one spot that does not go away
• Nipple discharge that starts suddenly
• Dimpling or puckering of the breast skin
• Swelling, warmth, redness, or darkening of the breast skin
Screening for breast cancer includes a clinical breast exam and a mammogram. A clinical breast exam is an exam of a woman’s breasts by a healthcare provider that allows him/her to feel for any lumps or abnormalities and a mammogram is an x-ray of the breast.
No health insurance?
Free mammograms and Pap tests are available for women ages 40 to 64 through the Onondaga County Cancer Services Program (CSP). The CSP also offers free colorectal cancer screening for women and men ages 50 to 64 who do not have health insurance. These services are available at many health care provider offices throughout the city of Syracuse and Onondaga County.
Call 435-3653 to see if you qualify or visit the CSP website to register online.
— Contributed by Emily Young, Public Health Educator with Onondaga County