Ethnicity can be a factor when considering breast cancer risk

Ada Patricia Romilly, MD

If you are standing in a group of eight women, statistics show that at least one of you will develop breast cancer in her lifetime.

When a woman is considering her risk for developing breast cancer, her ethnicity is an important factor. White women in the United States having a slightly higher likelihood of developing breast cancer than African American women. Yet tragically, the latter group is more likely to have a greater chance of developing breast cancer under age 45 and die from the disease. Asian, Hispanic and Native American women, on the other hand, have a lower risk of developing and dying from breast cancer. Still, the most common form of cancer death among Hispanic females is breast cancer.

A woman’s risk of breast cancer doubles if she has a first degree relative (mother, sister or daughter) who has been diagnosed with the disease. About 15 percent of women who get breast cancer have a family member diagnosed with it.

Until recently many considered that the disparities in the breast cancer death rate in African American women was mainly due to lack of access to medical care. Research has shown that the lack of access may be partially involved in late diagnosis of the disease — and that it is also linked to underlying genetic risk factors.

The Taylor Breast Center and the Roberta Orlen Chaplin Digital Breast Imaging Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital are involved in collaborative research with the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine to identify the multiple causes of these discrepancies including studies on genetics, treatment and improving access to early methods of detection.

While risk factors, such as age and race cannot change, women can take control and possibly change outcomes. The bottom line: x-ray mammograms still remain the gold standard for the early detection of breast cancer. Multiple studies have shown that there is a significant decrease in the death rate from breast cancer when cancers are found in women who have had mammography screening as compared to those who have not.

Jackson Health System offers a full line of breast health services at its three hospitals — Jackson Memorial, Jackson South Community Hospital and Jackson North Medical Center. All mammograms are done on the most up-to-date, digital equipment and we offer a continuum of care for all of our patients — from detection to diagnosis to treatment and surgery.

Jackson’s breast health centers offer a complete complement of imaging services, including breast ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which are additional methods for evaluating the breast tissue in certain individuals. MRI also is an important tool that we use with mammography for the screening of high-risk patients.

This month, Jackson is unveiling its new Mobile Mammogram Unit — the only FDA-certified one of its kind in Miami- Dade County. This mobile unit will provide digital mammography services to medically underserved populations throughout Miami-Dade County.

For more information on Jackson Health System’s breast health services or to make an appointment for a mammogram, please call 305-585-6000.

Radiologist Ada Patricia Romilly, MD, is the medical director of breast imaging at the Taylor Breast Health Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital. She specializes in mammography, breast ultrasound, breast MRI and breast interventional procedures, and also participates in clinical research in breast imaging. A national leader in the field of breast imaging, Dr. Romilly has published numerous studies in medical journals and is involved in developing guidelines for breast health in the United States.

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