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Cancer affects different populations differently, and minority groups in the United States continue to bear a greater cancer burden than our white counterparts. Much of this difference is due to factors like poverty and lack of access to prevention/detection services and high-quality treatment, according to a report in the American Cancer Facts & Figures 2013, a yearly American Cancer Society publication. For instance, African American and Hispanic women in the US have higher poverty rates than whites and are less likely to have health insurance, making it harder for them to get the care they need.

Breast Cancer Screening Guidelines

Annual Mammograms
Recommended to start at age 40 
The key role of mammography is identifying a site of breast cancer early in its development when it is very small.  This early detection is often a year or two before it is large enough to be felt as a lump.  Mammography detects approximately 2 to 3 times as many "early" breast cancers as physical examination and is considered the "gold standard" in breast cancer detection. 

Clinical Breast Exams
  • Ages 20-39, as part of a periodic health exam at least every 3 years
  • Ages 40+, prior to mammogram as part of a periodic health exam annually
  • As with the breast self-exam that you do at home, a breast exam by your healthcare provider consists of a visual and manual exam.  A visual exam checks for dimpling or puckering of the skin, secretion from the nipples, change in the breast contour and other abnormalities .  Amanual exam checks the breasts and underarms for any lumps or thickenings.  If your healthcare provider does not perform a breast exam during your physical exam, be sure to ask for one. 

Breast Self-Exam
Beginning in your early 20s, women should be told about the benefits and limitations of breast-self examination.  Women should know how there breast normally feel and report and breast changes promptly to their doctors.  The best time of the month to do the exam is 7 to 10 days after the start of your menstrual cycle.  If you no longer have periods, it is recommended that you choose the same day each month.

How to Test Your Breasts
  • First - Relax, sitting or standing, whichever is comfortable.
  • Second - With your arms at your sides, look for changes in your breasts --- lumps, thickenings, dimples or changes in the skin texture or appearance.
  • Third - Next, raise your arms above or behind your head, again looking for the same changes.
  • Fourth - Now, with your hands on your hips, press down and tense your chest muscles.  This will make any changes more prominent. It may be helpful to lean forward just a bit from the waist so that your breasts are not lying on the chest wall. 

References
American Cancer Society
Project Wish - "Caring For Your Breasts"

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