Early Mammograms Can Help Improve Breast Cancer Survival Rate For Black Women
Posted by Lynette Holloway on Oct 7th 2009 5:03PM
At 34, Karin Stanford was a vegetarian and worked out on a regular basis. She was the picture of health, or so she thought. She felt a lump in her left breast, while preparing to go out one night.
It turned out to be a malignant Stage IIA tumor. She had a lumpectomy, and today she is 46 and counting. Medical experts encourage women to get mammograms at 40. She shudders to think what could have happened had she not found the lump, or if she had waited until 40 to get a mammogram.
"What I urge black women to do is to get annual mammograms,'' Stanford says, "The sooner the better. The baseline age should be 35 [Some medical experts even say as early as 33]. And do your research. You have to do your own research.''
Stanford, Ph.D, is a professor of political science, at California State University in Northridge. She said Breast Cancer Awareness Month-October- is a particularly important platform to inform black women about the importance of breast health. While African-American women have a slightly lower incidence of breast cancer after age 40 than their white counterparts, they have a slightly higher incidence of breast cancer before reaching 40, according to the International Journal of Cancer.
Indeed, Dr. Leonidas G Koniaris, of the University of Miami, said African American women may consider earlier breast cancer screening, possibly between ages 33 and 35 because "It is at this age that the incidence of breast cancer in African American patients equals that for white women at 40, the suggested age to start screening, he said in an article in the May issue of the American College of Surgeons.
While the American Cancer Society recommends 40 for initial mammogram screening, Dr. Koniaris and his colleagues found different for African Americans after analyzing 63,472 breast cancer patients between 1998 and 2002 on a Florida cancer registry and inpatient hospital data. Of that number, 90.5 percent were white and 7.6 percent were African American, the article says. Researchers found that 10.5 percent of African Americans had breast cancer before the age of 40 years, and 22.4% before the age of 45 years. African American patients were also less likely to receive surgery.
"Based upon our study, African American women have a 1.72-fold increased risk of death from breast cancer," Dr. Koniaris told Reuters Health. "Approximately two-thirds of this excess risk is attributable to late stage presentation."
Stanford's personal experience drove her to write, 'Breaking the Silence: Inspirational Stories of Black Cancer Survivors,' the stories of 48 African Americans who have all had different forms of cancer, including breast, colon and lymphoma.
Today, Stanford is the proud mother of a 10-year-old girl, something doctors said could never happen because of the radiation she received from cancer treatment. "But my daughter is here and so am I.
"Doctors don't know why black women die from breast cancer more than our white counterparts, but all we can do is get checked,'' Stanford says. "Each year, I go for my check ups. You're always afraid of a reoccurrence, but you have to go. The worst thing you can do is not go for your check ups, the earlier the better, given our mortality rate.''