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breastDespite advances in screening and breast cancer treatment, many African American women are diagnosed with cancer in later stages due to fear and misinformation.

The need for testing regularly could save the lives of thousands iif taken seriously.

“I thought I was being diligent by doing self exams between my bi-annual mammograms and watching for any changes in my breast. The problem is because o the size and density of my breasts it was hard for me to tell what was abnormal,” said P.D. Lee who was recently diagnosed with the disease. “My mother died from breast cancer and my sister lost both breasts, so I am hoping to beat the odds.”

Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in women in the U.S. and the leading single cause of death overall in women between the ages of 40 and 55.

Every two minutes a woman in the U.S. is diagnosed with breast cancer. This statistic specifically resonates with African American women in the Detroit metropolitan region, who have less incidence of breast cancer overall, but are 40 percent more likely to die from the disease than white women.

While mammograms remain the gold standard for detecting breast tumors, and more black women are having the test than at any time before, new research indicates that mammograms are less reliable in detecting the disease in black women who often have denser breast tissue than their white counterparts.

“Sense breast density is associated with breast cancer risk, a better understanding of racial differences in breast density levels could help us identify women at the highest risk for breast cancer and target prevention strategies to those women,” says study author Anne Marie McCarthy of the American Association for Cancer Research. The study included 1,600 black women and more than 1,250 white women who were screened using mammography techniques.

The new finding is so significant, that a law enacted in June of this year, requires that women with dense breast tissue be notified in writing by medical professionals and encouraged to consider additional testing.

Gender and age are the greatest risk factors for developing breast cancer, Detroit’s Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute reports that black women tend to have a higher proportion of late stage diagnoses and five-year survival than white women.

“Although we’ve made great progress in the breast cancer fight, developing new treatments and enhancing screening technology to help diagnose the disease in its early stages when it’s most treatable, we can’t stop doing all we can to help women and men survive this disease,” said Gerold Bepler, M.D., Ph.D., president and CEO, Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit.

Karmanos Cancer Institute is nationally acclaimed as one of America’s best hospitals for cancer care for women. It was recently honored with the National Women’s Choice Award based on patient recommendations, oncology services and new technology.

One of the more progressive and more progressive technologies to promote faster and more effective breast cancer diagnosis is the development of SoftVue™, a whole breast ultrasound tomography system created at Karmanos. While not currently a substitute for screening mammography, SoftVue recently received an FDA clearance for diagnostic imaging purposes, a follow-up to mammography.

Breast Cancer Facts:

  1. Each year more than 220,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and more than 40,000 of them will die.
  2. Although breast cancer rates are on the rise, breast cancer mortality rates are declining.
  3. Risk of breast cancer increases with age. Fifty percent of breast cancer occurs in women aged 62 and older.
  4. Hormone Replacement Therapy increases your risk of breast cancer.
  5. Your legislative representatives have a role in what happens in breast cancer research
  6. Although breast cancer in men is rare, an estimated 2,150 men are diagnosed annually and 410 will die from the disease.

The Detroit Tigers and the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute will team up for the fourth annual Pink Out the Park at the Detroit Tigers vs. Kansas City Royals game Friday, Sept. 18, at 7:08 p.m., at Comerica Park. The event raises awareness of breast health and helps raise funds for breast cancer research at the Karmanos Cancer Institute.

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