It's really important to get screened for breast cancer because many women have no symptoms at all. You may have cancer growing in your body and you wouldn't even know it until it becomes too late. So screening is super important.
My name is Donna Perry. I am a medical director for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois. I am an OB-GYN by trade. I specialize in women's health. Now the recommendation is at 40 have a conversation with your OB-GYN or primary care provider and discuss your risk for breast cancer. With those conversations, you can determine when the best time is for you to get your mammogram. Breast cancer is basically cells that are growing out of control, and it depends on where the cells are located what type of cancer will develop. If a woman has cells that develop in the lobules, where the milk is produced, she may develop an invasive lobular cancer. If a woman has cells that grew out of control in the duct area, then she would have a ductal invasive carcinoma.
A lot of times there are no symptoms at all and that's really scary. Women can find lumps. Most times they find it in the shower, and the lump can be found in the breast or in the armpit because there's actual breast tissue in the armpit. A woman can feel a lump or thickening where the skin underneath doesn't feel quite like a lump but it doesn't really feel right. You can also have dimpling on the skin, retraction where part of the breast moves to one side, you can have swelling of the breast and you can have nipple discharge. But any kind of abnormal drainage from the breast can be a symptom. Some of the risk factors include family history. If your mom or your sister or your daughter had breast cancer you might be at higher risk. The biggest risk factor for breast cancer is age. Most breast cancers are found after the age of 50. The older you get, the more risk you have of getting breast cancer. Things women can do to reduce their risk for breast cancer include: maintaining healthy weight, increase physical activity - that's good for a lot of things - and to avoid alcohol.
In many cases, African American women have other factors that prevent them from getting screened - transportation and money for transportation. Also, if they do get screened and are diagnosed there may be other problems with them being able to afford the treatments, getting to their treatments and getting childcare in cases where they need to have appointments for their treatments, and things of that nature that prevent them from getting the full care that they need to beat the disease.