Do you know your risk for breast cancer? By being a woman and getting older, your risk for breast cancer increases. A personal or family history of breast cancer also increases your risk as does extremely dense breast tissue, which can mask or hide a breast cancer. In Michigan in 2019, it is estimated there will be 9,310 new cases of breast cancer and that 1,410 women will die from the disease. African American women are more likely to be diagnosed at a younger age than white women and diagnosed at a later stage. Late stage diagnoses may be due to lower frequency of mammograms, greater intervals of time between mammograms, and less consistent follow-up of suspicious mammogram results.

Compared to white women, African American women also have a higher death rate from breast cancer and across all stages of cancer diagnosis, they have poorer survival than white women. Factors that may contribute to the higher death rate in black females include: barriers to early detection and screening, unequal access to clinical trials, and the higher likelihood of being diagnosed with a more aggressive form of cancer known as Triple negative cancer. You can limit your risk by incorporating healthy behaviors in your life and getting regular breast cancer screenings.

Healthy behaviors that will help lower your risk include:

• Increasing physical activity

• Quitting smoking

• Maintaining a healthy weight

• Limiting alcohol Being tested for breast cancer is important.

The United States Preventive Services Task Force, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, and the American Cancer Society recommend:

• Women should be able to start screening as early as age 40, if they want to. It’s a good idea to start talking to your health care provider at age 40 about when you should begin screening.

• Women who are more at risk should begin screening at age 40.

• Women with an average risk of breast cancer – most women – should begin yearly mammograms by age 45. All women should begin mammography screening by age 50 at the latest.

• Breast exams, either from a medical provider or self-exams, are no longer recommended.

Pay attention to your family history of cancer. Approximately 5-10 percent of breast cancer is inherited due to strong genetic factors. Also, be aware that for women who are identified at an increased risk for developing breast cancer (and not previously diagnosed), three medications have been approved to reduce breast cancer risk: Tamoxifen, Raloxifene, and Exemestane. These women should discuss the risks and benefits associated with these medications, in addition to possible lifestyle changes, with their health care provider. Talk with your health care provider about healthy lifestyles and breast cancer prevention and screening. If you are uninsured or know someone who needs help paying for mammograms call 1-616-748-6009 for more information.