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The Pink Street Program; Bringing awareness to breast cancer

By Dawn Burleigh

Orange Leader

Members of the Orange (TX) Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta, Inc. spent an hour and half of their Sunday evening giving back to the community in a way to bring awareness to Breast Cancer throughout the month of October.

Health and Wellness Committee Chair Anitrea Goodwin with committee members Carmyn Thompson, Mary Ekene and Lykendria Walker, came up with the idea for The Pink Street Project to bring awareness while bringing support and acknowledge our women who have been affected by this world-wide disease.

Various factors can affect a woman’s risk for breast cancer. Some of these factors, including whether or not a woman is physically active, are within her control. But others are not, and those include when she started to menstruate.

According to Breastcancer.org, women who started menstruating prior to age 12 have a higher risk of developing breast cancer later in life. But that’s not the only link between menstruation and breast cancer risk, as women who go through menopause when they’re older than 55 years of age also have a higher risk of developing breast cancer later in life.

Breastcancer.org notes that, over the last two decades, girls have begun puberty at younger ages than girls in previous generations. Researchers have linked that phenomenon to the obesity epidemic and broad exposure to hormone disruptors. A rise in hormones triggers the onset of puberty. The breast tissue of girls who begin menstruating at a younger age tends to be immature and sensitive to hormonal influences, which is associated with a higher risk of breast cancer later in life.

Women may not be able to control when they start and stop menstruating, but they can control certain factors that can make them less likely to menstruate early. Breastcancer.org notes that maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly and eating nutritious foods are some lifestyle choices that girls and women can make to keep their risk for breast cancer as low as possible.

Various factors can increase a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer. Understanding the link between those factors and cancer risk can help women make healthy decisions that benefit both their short- and long-term health.

According to the World Health Organization, breast cancer is the most frequent cancer among women, affecting 2.1 million women each year. As daunting as that may seem, the WHO also notes that early diagnosis can greatly reduce a woman’s risk of dying from breast cancer.

Women can be proactive in the fight against breast cancer by learning to identify early warning signs of the disease. The nonprofit breast cancer advocacy organization Susan G. Komen® notes that the warning signs for breast cancer are not the same for all women, but the most common signs include a change in the look or feel of the breast or a change in the look or feel of the nipple. A discharge from the nipple is another common warning sign of breast cancer.

Physical changes in the breast can vary, but Susan G. Komen® advises women who notice these changes to bring them to the attention of their physicians immediately:

  • Lump, hard knot or thickening inside of the breast or underarm area
  • Change in the size or shape of the breast
  • Swelling, warmth, redness or darkening of the breast
  • Dimpling or puckering of the skin

Women with breast cancer also may notice physical changes in their nipples, including:

  • Itchy, scaly sore or rash on the nipple
  • Pulling in of the nipple or other parts of the breast

It’s important that women recognize that physical changes in their breasts are not necessarily indicative of breast cancer. In fact, the American Breast Cancer Foundation notes that not all lumps in the breast cause cancer and that many such lumps are benign. Fibroadenomas and intraductal papillomas are examples of benign lumps, though it’s important to note that even benign conditions such as these may put women at greater risk of developing breast cancer.

Susan G. Komen® notes that breast tissue naturally has a lumpy texture. If lumpiness can be felt throughout the breast and it feels like your other breast, then it’s likely that this is just the normal texture of your breasts. However, women concerned by a lump or lumpy texture are urged to discuss those concerns with their physicians immediately.

Discharge from the nipple is another potential sign of breast cancer, but Susan G. Komen® notes that such discharge is rarely a sign of cancer. Discharges that occur without squeezing the nipple, occur in only one breast or are bloody or clear are potentially indicative of more serious conditions, including breast cancer.

Breast cancer is a formidable foe. But women who arm themselves with knowledge of the disease, including its early warning signs, are in better position to overcome it.

The Gift of Life Breast Cancer Program makes available free mammograms, clinical breast exams and navigation to follow-up cancer treatment to medically underserved women in Southeast Texas. Call the Gift of Life 409-833-3663 to find out if you qualify and to make an appointment.