Facts Compiled by the New York State

Cancer Hotline and Support Program

When diagnosed at an early stage, there is little difference in mortality between racial groups.

Please tell everyone you know to practice breast self exam (BSE), to see a doctor for a clinical breast exam at least once a year and to get a mammogram if you are over age 50.

There is controversy about the best way to use mammography. This is because younger women have dense breasts and the ionizing radiation of mammography often cannot penetrate the tissue well enough to get a good reading. So the woman gets the radiation without any real benefit. We have NO long term studies of the results of constant exposure to mammography. ON THE OTHER HAND, we have no other tool for earlier diagnosis. Experiments are being done now with thermography. Valerie Sheppard of The Sheppard Foundation in Harlem, NY suggests that women should seek thermography since it offers no radiation dangers. Ultrasound or sonograms are a way for younger women to be checked.

A comparison of five year survival rates have shown that 62% of African American women live versus 79% of Caucasian women. (compares all stages of disease)

The S phase (rate at which a cell divides) is higher in African American women. Fast growing cells are said to be more aggressive. In some black women, the nature of the tumor may be different than in white women. This affects a small percentage and may be due to a mutation called M4. We need lots more information in this area. Not enough research has been done in minority women to justify many "facts".

Although the FDA allowed Tamoxifen to be recommended for risk reduction in healthy women at high risk for breast cancer, they have suggested that black women over age 60 and subject to high blood pressure NOT take the drug. It can cause strokes and blood clots in anyone. But this group may be at much higher risk. Please see the section on Tamoxifen for more information.

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