Too Many Black Women Are Dying From Breast Cancer

Image from Flickr.com

By Erica Rose

Since October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I thought I would do a little research into survival rates.  As it turns out, thanks to raised awareness, survival rates have increased among women in America. Unfortunately, according to Imaginis’ Women Health Resource the survival rates are not the same across all demographics, and in fact, the rate of survival among African American women is lowest of all women.

According to the website, incidences of cancer are reported at a higher rate among Caucasian women than African American Women (132.5 out 100,000 Caucasian women versus 118.3 out of 100,000 African American women). However the death rate from this disease for African American women is 33.8 out of 100,000 as opposed to 25 out of 100,000 Caucasian women. This means that 28% of African American women reported to be suffering from breast cancer die. Why is that?  The same source reports that Black women are diagnosed with later stages of breast cancer. The fact that Black women have the lowest rate of incidences of breast cancer, but the highest death rate suggests to me that we (and yes, I am a Black woman) are not being screened for this disease until it’s too late. Why not?

One reason may be a lack of health insurance and money. But self-breast exams are free. However, there have been many reports that self-examination is not the best method of screening only because lumps are not discovered as quickly as other screenings such as mammograms. But since most women don’t start getting mammograms till they are 40, self-exams are still the best way to stay healthy and they can be an easy way to check yourself if you can’t get to a doctor. Plus, performing a monthly breast exam on yourself is better than doing nothing at all. Also, there are resources available for all women, such as the Susan G. Komen for the Cure, that host Breast Cancer Awareness Fairs and conferences that provide free screenings for breast cancer. 

It is easy as women to get wrapped up in all of our responsibilities. But we have to remember that we have to find balance in our lives. And an important part of the balance includes taking care of our health. I am writing this blog to simply say to all women that we should not allow caring for loved ones, our jobs, or our education get in the way of caring for ourselves. If we do not take care of us first, then we cannot care for others. Getting screened or screening ourselves for breast cancer is one way to do that, so let’s get it done.

August is National Breastfeeding Month

Image from fotopedia.com

Every day at the Women’s Center, we celebrate women for their many contributions to society. August is nationally recognized as National Breastfeeding Month. This month is devoted to women and the value of breastfeeding their infants.

While not all mothers choose to breastfeed their infants, advocates of breastfeeding feel that women who breastfeed their infants can improve their child’s health, such as protecting the baby from gastrointestinal trouble, respiratory problems and ear infections.  Additionally, breastfeeding can even protect an infant from developing allergies later in life.

In support of staff, faculty, and students at UMKC who are also nursing mothers, the Women’s Center provides an on-site lactation station. Our lactation station provides a private, secure space where mothers feel comfortable while pumping their milk.  For more information about using the lactation station please stop by the Women’s Center at 105 Haag Hall or contact us at umkcwomenscenter@umkc.edu or 816-235-1638.

The NHAS Strategy is on Its Way to Stopping HIV/AIDS

On July 13, 2010 President Obama delivered the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS).  This strategy is designed to restrain the spread of infection and to allocate treatment resources that are lacking around the nation.  In Obama’s speech, he asserted three primary goals for the NHAS:

  1. To reduce HIV incidence
  2. To increase access to care and optimizing health outcomes
  3. To reduce HIV-related health disparities

Obama and his Administration developed the NHAS strategy with hope that it will reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS.  The strategy will be executed through providing research, prevention, and education efforts.

Historically, the HIV/AIDS catastrophe was first associated with urban, gay, white men, but recently, there has been a transition that changed the focus from urban, gay, white men being the largest community affected, to putting the focus on Black women.  Some research  shows that African American women are 12 times more likely to contract AIDS than Caucasian women.  Additionally, AIDS/HIV is the leading cause of death for African American women ages 25 to 34.  This disease among Black women has grown rapidly due to various reasons such as having unprotected sex, residing in impoverished neighborhoods, and sharing dirty needles while using illegal substances.  For these reasons also, HIV/AIDS is a major concern for Black women today. Of the 33.2 million people globally who are living with HIV or AIDS, Black women make up the largest portion of this population.   

In the United States, roughly one million people live with HIV or AIDS.  This disease not only destroys the lives of the person infected, but it affects the lives of those around them, their communities, and, if nothing is done to stop the spread of this disease, will continue to have lasting effects on our society, too.  This is why President Obama and his Administration are taking a stand with the NHAS strategy because, clearly, the numbers reveal that HIV/AIDS is not a problem that individuals can solve alone.  It is a global problem that needs governmental attention.  

UMKC students can be HIV tested for a fee at UMKC Student Health and Wellness located at 4825 Troost.  If you are not a student and would like to get tested for HIV/AIDS and are not sure about any sites in your local area, please contact the CDC National AIDS Hotline at (800) 342-2437 for English or (800) 344-7432 for Spanish.  This hotline can answer any questions about testing, and can refer you to any testing site in your area.

Go Green with a Diva Cup

Many women today are “going green” which means that they’re buying reusable water bottles, products that are organic or chemical free, and doing a lot of recycling. Unfortunately, it’s generally not very cheap to be environmentally conscious. Most products that are chemical and dye free are often the most expensive as well. Hybrid cars, while cool, haven’t really been around for very long, so even a used one is too expensive for most people, let alone poor college kids like me. Even so, we try to recycle a much as we can, turn out the lights when we leave a room, try to waste less water by turning it off when we’re brushing our teeth – all things that help out the environment, while saving us money at the same time.

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One of the ways that we women can be environmentally conscious and save money is through a menstrual cup.  Yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like. Instead of a woman using a tampon to absorb her menses, she can opt to use this medical-grade silicone cup. There’s even one approved by the FDA called the Diva Cup. It is also the only one sold in many of the natural or whole foods stores. The Diva Cup can be worn for up to 12 hours before it needs to be emptied out, washed and then reused. When the menstrual cycle ends, it can be sterilized by being boiled.

I personally have always felt that pads and tampons were irritating so when I heard about this, I researched it for about a month before buying one. I’ve had one for almost a year and it has saved me money and it’s not nearly as gross as I thought it would be. I found this was something I was far more comfortable with than I ever thought I would be.

This is definitely something that is really strange for people to think about, but don’t judge it until you’ve given it a try.  You can be saving the environment and, in the long run, saving some cash.  Diva Cups are sold for around $30 online or in many Whole Foods stores.

Women's Healthy Eating

A study by Science Daily proved what most of us have already known:  Women are healthier than men.  The study also proved that one of the reasons for this was that women had healthier eating habits than men. 

According to the study, men were more likely to eat more meat like duck, veal, and ham than women.  Red meat in moderation is okay, but what I’ve witnessed in my own family, is that men tend to eat more than a healthy portion of meat with their meals and they tend to eat it almost every day.  On the other hand, the study found that women were more likely to eat more fruits and vegetables than men.  Tomatoes, carrots, strawberries, blueberries, and apples are healthy food choices that women make.  More women than men also prefer nuts or yogurt, both quite healthy snacks.   Finally, the study found that men were more likely to make riskier food choices like eating undercooked meat, which has the potential for e-coli contamination.

When I read the article I was thinking that maybe this is one of the reasons women live longer than men.  If women make healthier food choices than men throughout their life, then naturally they would live longer.  This is probably why many men suffer from heart disease, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol later in life.   This study was done a couple years ago but the information is still accurate.  Hopefully the information from this study will help educate men and convince them what women have already known for years:  Fruits and vegetables are not only delicious, eating more of them will help men live a longer, healthier life.

The Benefits of Eating Breakfast

We have all been told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but as busy college students, mothers, working professionals, or all three, we oftentimes don’t have time for breakfast and it’s really difficult to eat a plate of scrambled eggs while we’re rushing out the door (well, some of you more talented folks might be able to, but I certainly can’t). Why should we eat breakfast every morning? What does it do? How am I, as a woman, going to benefit from eating breakfast?

Actually, eating breakfast does have certain health benefits for women.  According to WebMD, not only can skipping breakfast slow your metabolism, causing weight gain, but it can also put women at a higher risk of heart disease. A recent study found that women who skipped breakfast every day for two weeks ate more during the rest of the day and developed higher LDL or “bad” cholesterol levels, which makes women less sensitive to insulin. The study also found that eating breakfast can reduce the risk of obesity in women by 35-50%, since women who ate breakfast ate less the rest of the day.  To get the full benefit of eating breakfast, another article advises that you should eat breakfast within an hour of waking, before your blood sugar starts to drop. 

So, to get you started on your on-the-go breakfast ideas, I have a few suggestions. It’s always easier to grab something as you’re going out the door, so try to prepare breakfast before you go to bed. Fruit is always a good idea. Apples and bananas can be eaten with no preparation. If you like grapes, try to separate them in individual sandwich baggies when you buy them so you can just grab them on your way out the door. Pita pockets are great too. You can stuff them with anything you want and eat it one-handed without worrying if anything is falling out the other side. I always think bagels and toast are great, but they take a little more preparation in the morning. Cheese sticks and cheese cubes are always a good idea as well, and they are a good source of calcium, something women especially need to fight off calcium deficiencies and bone loss later in life. A smoothie or a milkshake can be packed with calcium and they are always filling and easy to eat, but also take more time to make in the morning. Finally, yogurt is a great on-the-go food packed with calcium.

I always think that I’m in a better mood in the morning if I’ve eaten breakfast (I’ve been known for being kind of a grouch any time before 11 AM) and I notice that I eat less during the day. My personal favorites are cheese sticks, grapes, and tomato soup in a travel mug. Tomato soup is a little less traditional, but sometimes if I get up really early I don’t want to eat any solid foods, so soup in a travel mug is great. And no matter what it is I end up grabbing for breakfast, I always have a glass of milk too.

De-stress to Stay Well

This is a very stressful time of year for many of us.  The holidays and finals can add a lot to our already very full plates.  A recent article that I read stated that stress has a different affect on women than on men. Women are more likely to become stressed because they deal with many high stress situations all at once. Many women have to balance motherhood, families, and careers so they are prone to spreading themselves too thinly to get things done; oftentimes, neglecting themselves.  Too much stress on women can cause sudden weight gain or weight loss, body pain, and even heart disease.  Stress can also manifest itself physically through skin rashes, eczema, or hair loss. I was unaware of the seriousness of stress. I have recently been experiencing lots of stress because of finals so this really scares me. However, I do have good news. The article also provides helpful tips on how to relieve stress and how to prevent it in the future.  Here are a few:

  • Talk to friends
  • Listen to relaxing music
  • Exercise
  • Go to the spa
  • Help someone else
  • Count the great things in your life
  • Watch a comedic film
  • Try something new

After finals, I’m going to try some of these tips out.  Hopefully, I will keep the stress at bay, so it won’t lead to some serious health problems later.

Women and Caffeine

Finals are coming up fast and everyone is ready to start downing that caffeine. We all know that too much caffeine can be bad for you, but is it really as bad as everyone thinks? Moreover, does caffeine affect men and women differently? 

There are positive and negative effects from caffeine for both men and women.  However, according to a recent article, women are more sensitive to caffeine than men.  The negative effects that caffeine can have for women can include an increase in the severity of pre-menstrual symptoms, increased risk for osteoporosis, and low birth weight babies and heart palpitations for pregnant women. Too much caffeine can also bring on the process of aging and menopause earlier.  On the other hand, another study in the same article found that women who regularly drink caffeine decrease their chances of getting diabetes by thirty percent. Furthermore, moderate caffeine consumption can help improve memory, provide relief for headaches and asthma, put people in a better mood, and inhibit the development of cavities.

So as you reach for that second or third cup of coffee to help keep you awake while studying for finals, remember, it may help your memory, but keep in mind what it may do to you later in life.