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National Breast/Chest Cancer Awareness Month

“I do not wish my anger and pain and fear about cancer to fossilize into yet another silence, nor to rob me of whatever strength can lie at the core of this experience, openly acknowledged and examined … imposed silence about any area of our lives is a tool for separation and powerlessness.”

– Audre Lorde, The Cancer Journals

Everyone with breast/chest tissue may be susceptible to breast or chest cancer – and National Breast/Chest Cancer Awareness month is a reminder that no matter who you are – if you have it, check it. Certain groups, however – women, particularly LBTQ women and women of color – may be at increased risk, due in part to lower rates of routine mammograms, clinical breast exams, and other preventive screenings – or accessing them at later stages when cancerous cells may have progressed. Lower rates of insurance, stigma, and factors such as overall higher rates of obesity and alcohol and tobacco use and lower rates of child bearing also put an undue burden on these communities.

Susan G. Komen for the Cure has developed a series of recommendations for breast and chest cancer screening based on four key elements:

1) Know your risk: if you can, learn about your family’s health history and talk to a provider about your personal risk of breast cancer – based on who YOU are. Cancer screening recommendations can be individualized.

2) Get screened: for people assigned female at birth who have breasts, we recommend screening every 2 years between the ages of 50 and 74. But we recommend you discuss with your medical provider, as risk factors vary.

3) Know what is normal for you, and see your health care provider if you notice any of these breast changes: lump, hard knot or thickening inside the breast or underarm area; swelling, warmth, redness or darkening of the breast; change in the size or shape of the breast; dimpling or puckering of the skin; itchy, scaly sore or rash on the nipple; pulling in of your nipple or other parts of the breast; nipple discharge that starts suddenly; new pain in one spot that doesn’t go away

4) Exercise self-love and self-care:  Maintain a healthy weight, incorporate exercise and limit alcohol and tobacco use.

At Callen-Lorde, our providers and care coordination staff work hard to educate our patients and to help connect them to coverage and sensitive cancer screening services. We’re also fortunate enough to partner with some fantastic organizations in New York City such as the Lesbian Cancer Initiative and the Breast Treatment Task Force in our continuing effort to provide sensitive, culturally competent breast/chest cancer services to lesbians, bisexual women, and transgender and gender-nonconforming  people.

In addition, the Affordable Care Act requires that certain prevention-related health care services – including mammograms, as well as annual pap smears, and more are provided at no cost. If you’re uninsured, meet with one of our facilitated enrollers to see what you may qualify for. This is a free service available to patients and non patients alike.

Additional Resources:

Lesbian Cancer Initiative

LGBT Cancer Support Network

National Center for Transgender Equality Breast Cancer Page

Project Renewal

Susan G. Komen LGBT Cancer Facts