Friday, October 15, 2010

AAHI Publishes an Article in the Washington Chinese News

AAHI, in partnership with Chinese Culture and Community Service Center, Inc. (CCACC) and Pan Asian Volunteer Health Clinic has published an article in the Washington Chinese News on breast health and the importance of screenings. The article is translated into Chinese to reach the targeted community. Below is the text in English.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Before we begin our discussion on breast cancer, we need to understand why breast cancer is an important health issue among Chinese American women. According to the American Cancer Society, cancer is the leading cause of death for Asian Americans as a group. But among Chinese women, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer. Research also indicates that the risk of developing breast cancer among Chinese women greatly increases after they have been living in the United States for many years and have adapted to a Western-lifestyle. Despite the risk, Chinese American women have very low breast cancer screening, about 41%, and therefore the cancer is diagnosed at a later stage. Furthermore, breast cancer is one of the top three causes of death for Chinese women. Therefore, it is especially important for Chinese women to learn about breast cancer and take proactive steps to prevent it.

Now that we understand why breast cancer is important, our next step is to understand what a breast is and what cancer is. A breast consists of ducts (tubes that carry milk to the nipple) and lobules (glands that produce the milk). The ducts and lobules are supported by tissue that is both fatty and fibrous. Cancer is when cells begin to grow and divide abnormally under harsh or destructive conditions. This abnormal growth is called a tumor. The tumor can be either benign which means it is non-cancerous or it can be malignant which means it is cancerous.

Breast cancer is when the cancer cells are found in the tissue of the breast. Breast cancer can occur in both men and women, but it is more common among women. Most breast cancers begin in the ducts, some begin in the lobules and a small number begin in other tissues of the breast. Breast cancer usually begins with a small cancerous tumor in the breast, commonly known as a lump. If the cancerous cells remain confined in one place it is called noninvasive breast cancer. If the cancerous cells spread to other tissues or organs of the body, it is called invasive breast cancer. It is better to detect breast cancer when it is noninvasive.

Especially in the beginning stages, breast cancer does not show many signs or symptoms. As the cancer progresses, certain symptoms may be present, these include:
- A breast lump or thickening that feels different from surrounding tissue
- Bloody discharge from the nipple
- Change in the size or shape of a breast
- Changes to the skin over the breast
- Inverted nipple
- Peeling or flaking of the nipple skin,
- Redness or pitting of the skin over your breast- like an orange.

The exact cause of breast cancer is unclear. But there are certain risk factors which can increase your chances of developing breast cancer. These risk factors include:
- Being female
- Aging
- A family history of breast cancer
- Inherited genes
- Radiation exposure
- Obesity
- Beginning menstruation at a younger age
- Starting menopause at an older age
- Having your first child at an older age
- Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol.
Breast cancer can also develop in the absence of these risk factors, therefore it is important to stay proactive about health and take part in breast cancer prevention.

The best prevention for breast cancer is getting screenings in a timely manner. Because breast cancer may not have symptoms in the beginning states, it is very important to follow screening recommendations. Women are encouraged to do breast self-exams every month to check for lumps or any other abnormalities. Also, the American Cancer Society recommends that women receive Clinical Breast Exams (CBEs) every 3 years starting from the age of 20. When women have reached age 40, they should receive a CBE every year. Furthermore, the Office on Women’s Health supports the guidelines that women should receive mammograms every 1-2 years starting at the age of 40. A mammogram is a low dose x-ray exam that checks the breast tissue for abnormalities. The combination of these screening recommendations is the best prevention.

It is in your hands to take control of your health. The Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services – Asian American Health Initiative (AAHI) and the Chinese Culture and Community Service Center (CCACC) Pan Asian Volunteer Clinic (PAVHC) encourage you to contact your primary care for a screening if you have not yet received a CBE or mammogram. If you do not have a primary care physician, please check your local hospitals and community clinics for low-cost or free screenings.

Early detection is your best protection!

It is extremely important for Chinese Americans to take action against the disease; educate your family and friends and follow the preventative screening guidelines. Screening is the most effective way to prevent breast cancer.
Screening guidelines-
o 20’s & 30’s= breast self exams monthly, clinical breast exams every 3 years
o 40’s and older= breast self exams monthly, clinical breast exam every year, and mammograms every 1-2 years

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