Many people love October for the new fall fashion fits, changing weather, and never-ending horror movies. And while all of those are valid reasons, there's another one that should be added to the mix, the fact that it's Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Like many, cancer has impacted my family personally, and I'm well aware of the forever effect it can have on individuals, loved ones, and survivors. That's why I appreciate that this month serves as a personal reminder to donate, foster community, and volunteer toward a fight that affects so many of us.
Recently, actress and Grammy-award-winning singer Mary J. Blige appeared on a women's panel entitled, "Screening the System: A Dialogue on Bias and Breast Health'' and passionately shared her conviction for prevention and education around the disease. During the conversation, the Power Book II: Ghost actress admitted that she wasn't aware of the importance of mammograms until it was time for her to get screened.
"I found out about it at the GYN. They don't discuss this when we're children. They don't say, 'Go get a mammogram.' You learn about this as you get older. So they don't speak about it, and that's why they end up in the hospital with two weeks to live, and now you know about it."
While scrolling online I noticed a few people criticizing Mary J., saying she should've known to do this earlier. But to me, it's like, how? If it wasn't discussed, who would make that decision voluntarily? Nonetheless, the comments did make me think, if we don't know the actions to take toward prevention, how can we work toward fixing the problem?
So, below I've listed a few diseases that disproportionately affect Black people and women and a measure we can take toward prevention. I challenge you to have a conversation with your homegirls, parents, or even a bae and ask if they've had all the necessary checks. Because, hey, if we know better, we do better, right?
Mammograms, Breast Cancer (40)
According to statistics, "About 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer throughout her life." And Black women are 40% more likely than white women to die from breast cancer. One of the best preventive care methods is mammograms. Women should start getting them at the age 40.
Mary J. Blige reflected on the importance of preventive care stating, "My health is my wealth. My health is my beauty. Beauty is healing from the inside out."
Pap Smears, Cervical Cancer (30)
Although cervical cancer rates in the US have decreased, in January 2021, the American Cancer Society estimated that over 4,000 deaths a year will come from the disease. One of the best preventive methods is to get regular pap smears. Although you can get tested earlier, at age 30, women must ask to also be tested for HPV.
Colonoscopy, Colon Cancer (45)
I know getting a colonoscopy isn't at the top of everyone's favorite thing to-do list. But according to the CDC, it is the second leading cause of cancer deaths, and screenings should start at age 45.
A1C Tests, Diabetes (45)
Now, these numbers surprised me. The American Diabetes Association states that almost one-third of the country's population is affected by diabetes. And the risk of diabetes is 77% higher among African-Americans than Caucasians. With these alarming rates, it's best to be safe and get a blood sugar test every three years starting at 45, even if you are non-symptomatic.
Featured image by Kevin Mazur/MG21/Getty Images For The Met Museum/Vogue