October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
The annual campaign was launched in October 1985 to increase awareness of the disease but also to raise funding for breast cancer research.
Breast cancer is one of the deadliest diseases among women in the United States — and the deadliest among Black women.
Although rare, men can develop breast cancer as well.
- According to the African American Breast Cancer Alliance (AABCA), Black women are 41% more likely to die from breast cancer than white women, despite being less likely to be diagnosed with the disease.
- Black women tend to have denser breast tissue, which can mask early signs of breast cancer, according to Very Well Health.
- Black men have a 52% higher rate of contracting the disease than white men, as reported by Black Health Matters.
- Fewer than 1% of breast cancer cases are diagnosed in Black men, per BreastCancer.org.
What is the biggest contributor to breast cancer?
There is no single contributor to breast cancer. However, multiple reports have shown that aging is a leading factor in developing the disease. Women over the age of 50 are at an increased risk, according to the CDC and Breast Cancer Now.
Is it a genetic disease?
According to Transparent Hands, if one or more of your family members has had breast cancer, there is a 5% to 10% chance that you could acquire the disease too. Mutations in the BRCA1 gene and BRCA2 gene, which maintain healthy cell growth and mend cell damage, are usually responsible for hereditary cases.
Does breast cancer affect one or both breasts?
Breast cancer may occur in both breasts or only affect one, although it can spread to other areas of the body and develop new tumors, per Transparent Hands. An article published by the University of Kansas Cancer Center states that breast cancer is 5% to 10% more likely to develop in the left breast. No one knows why.
Can I lower my risk of developing breast cancer?
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends keeping a healthy weight, staying active, limiting your alcohol consumption and talking to your doctor about the risks of any oral contraceptives. If any of your family members have or had breast cancer, discuss ways to lower your risk with your healthcare provider.
For women at higher risk, prescription medications or undergoing surgery to remove the breasts may lower your risk, according to the American Cancer Society.
How can men develop breast cancer?
Both men and women have fatty breast tissue. During puberty, hormones produced by female bodies cause their breasts to grow, while the hormones in male bodies restrict the growth of breast tissue, per BreastCancer.org.
Most breast cancers in men begin in the milk ducts but are more likely to be diagnosed at an advanced stage. Men are less likely to receive routine mammograms and tend to pay less attention to changes in their breast tissue.
If you find a lump:
- It may or may not be cancer. Lumps in breasts are normal (for the most part) due to hormonal changes or an injury.
- See a doctor if the lump is worsening or getting bigger. If possible, see a doctor who has given you a breast examination or mammogram before.
Other possible signs or symptoms
***Note: Every breast looks different, but it is important to note any major or minor changes.
Early detection methods:
Make self examination a routine. The more you examine your breasts, the more you will learn about them and identify any issue early on.
Get to know how different parts of your breast feel. The upper outer area of the breast (near the armpit) tends to have more lumps.
Record what you find in a journal. Noting any changes you find can help you remember what is normal for you.
Mammograms, an x-ray of the breast tissue, can often detect tumors before they can be felt.
Information provided by BreastCancer.org.
Six resources on breast cancer:
- The “411” on breast cancer in Black women
- Breast self examination
- Impairments, limitations and breast cancer
- Breast cancer in men
- The effect of breast cancer in Black men
- Seven photographs of breast cancer