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Sisters -- Why You Should Get A Mammogram

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Dr. Ernest Levister, Jr.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month – With breast cancer a major health risk for women of all stripes it puzzles me why so many African-American women still refuse to get an annual mammogram.

Women get breast cancer when cells in the breast don’t grow right and a tumor forms. Getting a mammogram (x-ray of the breast) can help find the cancer early. This gives a woman more treatment options and makes it more likely she will survive the cancer.

African American women are more likely than all other women to die from breast cancer. Tumors are found at a later, more advanced, stage so there are fewer treatment options. Some reasons for this may include not being able to get health care or not following-up after getting abnormal test results.  Other reasons may include distrust of the health care system, the belief that mammograms are not needed, or not having insurance.

We do not know how to prevent breast cancer. But there are things you can do to reduce your risk, such as keeping a healthy weight and limiting how much alcohol you drink.

There are things you can do to find breast cancer early:

·         Get a mammogram. It is the best way to find out if you have breast cancer. A mammogram is an x-ray picture of the breast. It can find breast cancer that is too small for you or your doctor to feel. All women starting at age 40 should get a mammogram every one to two years. Talk to your doctor about how often you need a mammogram.  If your mother or sister had breast cancer, you may need to start getting mammograms earlier.

·         Get a clinical breast exam. This is a breast exam done by your doctor or nurse. She or he will check your breasts and underarms for any lumps, nipple discharge, or other changes. The breast exam should be part of a routine check up.

·         Get to know your breasts. You should perform monthly breast self-exams to check for any changes in your breasts. If you notice a change, see your doctor right away.

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