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Treatment

Breast cancer is generally treated with a combination of chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, radiation, and surgery.

Chemotherapy and hormonal treatments are systemic therapies that target cancer cells that have traveled to areas of the body beyond the breast. Surgery and radiation are localized treatments focusing specifically on the breast tissue itself.

Breast cancer surgeries may be “breast conserving”, wherein “lumpectomies” and other localized surgeries endeavor to conserve as much viable non-cancerous breast tissue as possible. Mastectomies can involve the removal of a portion of the breast tissue and local lymph nodes, as well as radical surgery that encompasses the entire breast and portions of the chest wall, when necessary.

Male Breast Cancer

Only 1% of all breast cancer cases occur in males, and usually between the ages of 60 and 70.

Due to the fact that men have little breast tissue in comparison to women and are often diagnosed with cancer much later in the disease process, male breast cancer frequently involves the chest wall and other surrounding tissue. Men are generally unaware that they are susceptible to breast cancer and thus will ignore the symptoms until the disease has progressed significantly.

Breast Cancer and African American Women: Disturbing Statistics

Although African American women have a lower incidence of breast cancer than their white counterparts, they actually have a higher risk of death from breast cancer, a statistic that scientists are still endeavoring to fully understand.

Some studies have indicated that breast cancers grow more rapidly in African American women and are less responsive to hormone-based therapies. Other studies have also demonstrated that African American women tend to be diagnosed at later stages of the disease than white women, and various factors have been considered to explain this racial difference in diagnosis, including the fact that African American women undergo fewer mammograms.

According to an article on the website of the Black Women’s Health Imperative (www.blackwomenshealth.org), both insured black women and uninsured white women wait twice as long to receive “a definitive breast cancer diagnosis” than white women who are insured, and black women “waited twice as long as white patients to begin treatment after breast cancer diagnosis”.

Additionally, a study by the American Journal of Public Health found that African American women are less likely to receive appropriate cancer treatment, a conclusion that calls for greater advocacy and racial parity in screening, diagnosis and treatment. This is underscored by the fact that the 5-year survival rate from breast cancer among African American women is 69%, whereas the 5-year survival rate for white women is 84%, another disturbing racial differential.

Breast Cancer: Action Is Still Needed

Breast cancer is still a very serious public health issue for American women, and racial disparities regarding screening, diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer have a significant negative impact upon African American women, and are indeed a cause for alarm, action and advocacy.

Breast self-exam, annual mammograms, and annual clinical breast exams are all important aspects of early detection that all women should undertake and advocate for on their own behalf.

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Breast Cancer: A Year-Round Survival Guide  was originally published on blackdoctor.org

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