Because black women are highly affected by breast cancer, some campus organizations are planning events for October to promote Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The American Cancer Society said black women have a 20 percent higher breast cancer rate than women in any other ethnic or racial group.
The ACS also said that breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancerous death among black women.
“Breast cancer is the leading cause of death for African-American women, simply because by the time they check, it is usually too late,” said Dearline Thomas-Brown, the leading nurse case manager for the breast and cervical cancer program at the Leon County Health Department.
“African-American women are the backbone of the African-American society, and they tend to take care of everyone else before they take care of their selves.”
Thomas-Brown said she recommends that women younger than 50 start doing their own breast self examinations because the risk of developing breast cancer increases with age.
The ACS said women from age 20 and over should do a breast self-exam once a month and get a physical breast exam by a doctor or nurse every 3 years.
By the time a woman reaches 40, she should have her first mammogram and consistently have them every one to two years, the ACS said.
Thomas-Brown also said women with a family history of breast cancer have increased risk.
Women under the age of 50 need to find out their history and start getting checked sooner, she said.
“Anytime that there is a family history, young ladies need to know how to do their own breast exam,” Thomas-Brown said. The ACS said the breast self exam is an early start for women to know how their breasts look and feel. As a woman gets older, she can then notice any changes in her breast that could possibly be an early detection of breast cancer.
Salina Allen, 23, a fifth-year pharmacy student from Fort Lauderdale, is a member of Kappa Epsilon Pharmaceutical Fraternity Inc. The fraternity is one of the organizations on campus that decided to get breast cancer certified so they may teach other women how to do breast self exams.
“I’m passionate about breast cancer awareness, and as a member of Kappa Epsilon, breast cancer is our national project,” Allen said. “My advice for women my age, especially women of color, is to start doing breast self exams now.” Irene O. Aihie, 25, a senior health information management senior from Miami, said she is truly excited about Breast Cancer Awareness Month because her organization is planning an annual event that has taken place since 2001.
Aihie is a member of the Beta Alpha Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. Every year the chapter invites the public to “Night out for Breast Cancer,” which is co-sponsored this year by the ACS and the FAMU Relay for Life planning committee. Aihie describes the event as an evening of awareness through the expression of song, dance and poetry.
In addition to the event, the chapter also offers their own Lawanda Renee Book Scholarship, in honor of a past member of their sorority who died of breast cancer at a time when many people were unaware of the disease, to the student body.
“I believe that awareness for African-Americans is very important, and the fact we are the largest HBCU in the nation, it’s only right that we promote the awareness of a disease that is killing our people,” Aihie said.
“Night Out For Breast Cancer” will be held in Lee Hall on Oct. 31 at 7 p.m.