It’s that time once again. Each year, women over the age of 40 should go to their doctor for an annual exam and to schedule a mammogram––that is, an X-ray picture of the breasts. Black women do get breast cancer and often times some of the most aggressive and non-curable types. Doctors use a mammogram to look for early signs of breast cancer for prevention measures. Regular mammograms are the best tests doctors have to find breast cancer early, and it is my sincere hope that this column will inspire someone to get a mammogram if you have not done so already… or to convince someone in your life to do so.
I am officially over 40 and went for my first mammogram last year. I had heard the horror stories that had been passed down from friends and from reading articles. I heard that it would be the most painful experience of my life. I heard that it was incredibly scary. I heard that I would not be able to stand the pain. All of those stories were completely false. I am so sure some women find the exam painful, but to be very honest, the mammogram was a slight discomfort and that was all. In addition, the entire exam from start to finish was less than five minutes. Five minutes to make sure my health is intact and I will continue to be able to spend time with family and friends.
A mammogram is merely a test to help with detection. Breast exams should be given to oneself on a regular basis so that any abnormalities that arise can be caught before they evolve into dangerous and life threatening problems. Some women have fattier or more dense breasts than others. Some women have lumpy breasts that are just fine and not cancerous. However, a regular checkup and mammogram can assuage fears and possibly detect any problems before they become too unwieldy. According to the Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, breast cancer affects more women than any other type of cancer. It is also the leading cause of cancer-related deaths among women. They state that, “African American women have a 31% breast cancer mortality rate––the highest of any U.S. racial or ethnic group.” Therefore, it is imperative we screen for breast cancer by getting annual mammograms if possible.
My mother and sister live in the same city and have taken to treating themselves to lunch after their mammograms. Whatever you and your loved ones need to do to feel better about the process, do it! A few minutes of discomfort or maybe even slight pain could save your life. If you are not in the category of someone who needs a mammogram, please convince the women in your life to have one done each year.
Christina Greer, Ph.D., is an associate professor at Fordham University, the author of “Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream,” the co-host of the podcast FAQ-NYC.