Save the Women

On any given day in America, 771 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. On that same day, 119 will die—for every hour of every day, breast cancer will kill 5 women.

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Illustration of women of different races with bras and masks on with the text, "cancer is not quarantined, check your breasts".

Courtesy WHM Center

Each month of the year allows us to focus on topics that some may not otherwise think about during the year. In October, we call for an increased awareness of breast cancer.

On any given day in America, 771 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. On that same day, 119 will die—for every hour of every day, breast cancer will kill 5 women. And, the chances are good that it will be someone you know: a loved one, a friend, the acquaintance you chat with at the local coffee shop. Breast cancer is pervasive; its tendrils reach into the darkest of corners, taking our mothers, sisters, aunts, friends, and partners with it when it leaves.

As with so many other challenges, breast cancer impacts communities of color in more significant numbers. According to Sisters Network, while women of color have a slightly smaller chance of a positive diagnosis, once diagnosed, they have a 42% greater risk of dying than their white counterparts. This disparity often comes down to a lack of access to viable resources, including education, information, money, health care, and treatment options. Women of color are less likely to have jobs that include health insurance. And, if health insurance is available, taking time off to go to the doctor—and the resulting loss of wages—may not be an option. Although the Affordable Care Act made mammograms and other cancer screenings free, the treatment remains costly.

Also, women of color often have denser breast tissue, which means that tumors can hide, making their detection far more challenging. Screening is not as simple as a mammogram; it also requires an ultrasound, which means more money and more time off from work—often not a choice they can make.

It does not have to be this way.

Since 1980, the American Cancer Society has recommended that every woman, of at least high school age, do self-examinations for lumps in their breasts. Over the years, the ACS has also called for clinical exams and mammograms every 1, 2, or 3 years depending upon your age and other risk factors. While different agencies may have varying screening recommendations, they can all agree on one thing: early detection is the key. Caught in the early stages, women diagnosed with breast cancer have a 98% chance of survival.

If you have never done a self-examination, this video will give you tips on how to do it.

And, when it comes time for a clinical exam, make an appointment with your gynecologist or general practitioner, or visit a local Planned Parenthood clinic. While Planned Parenthood does not perform mammograms, their health care providers can perform the clinical exam and provide you with life-saving information.

If there is not a Planned Parenthood clinic in your area, or you do not have an established relationship with a physician, visit the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program of the CDC which can help you find a provider in your area.

Fight like a girl—the world needs you!

Thank you to Elena and Chris T.

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