American Indian Women and Breast Cancer


Every American Indian Woman Is at Risk of Developing Breast Cancer

  • All women are at risk for breast cancer. The older you are, the greater your chance of getting it. Women who have a mother, sister or daughter with breast cancer are at higher risk, particularly if this occurred before menopause or in both breasts.
  • Although the breast cancer mortality rates for most American Indians is lower than those for white, African American, and Hispanic women, the rate of death due to the disease has risen since the 1970s in selected areas of the United States.
  • The 5-year breast cancer survival rate for American Indian women is lower than that of other ethnic and racial groups in the U.S.
  • Lack of access to and use of early-detection services may be a major contributor to the poor breast cancer survival rate among Native Americans.

Early Detection Is Your Best Protection

  • Annual screening mammography for women by age 40.
  • Women under age 40 with either a family history of breast cancer or other concerns about their personal risk should consult a trained medical professional about when to begin mammography.
  • Clinical breast examination at least every 3 years beginning at age 20 and annually after 40.
  • Monthly breast self-examination beginning by age 20.
    Become familiar with the normal look and feel of your breasts. If ANY change occurs, you should have a clinical breast examination by a trained medical professional.
Symptoms and Diagnosis of Breast Cancer

Early breast cancer usually does not cause pain. In fact, when breast cancer first develops, there may be no symptoms at all. But as the cancer grows, it can cause changes that women should watch for:

  • A lump or thickening in or near the breast or in the underarm area.
  • A change in the size or shape of the breast.
  • A discharge from the nipple.
  • A change in the color or feel of the skin of the breast, areola, or nipple (dimpled, puckered, or scaly).

A woman should see her doctor if she notices any of these changes. Most often, they are not cancer, but only a doctor can tell for sure.

(Source: Susan G. Komen Foundation)

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