One in eight women will get breast cancer at some point in her life. Breast cancer is the most frequently occurring cancer in American women. The American Cancer Society estimates that over 44,000 women died from breast cancer in 1997. However, breast cancer does not have to kill. If detected early, breast cancer often can be successfully treated.

All women, including women with disabilities, are susceptible to breast cancer. You might be at a greater risk for breast cancer if:

  • You are over age 40.
  • Your mother, sister, or daughter has had breast cancer.
  • You were exposed to high dose radiation when you were young (i.e. extensive x-rays for scoliosis, radiation for thymus problems, radiation for pneumothorax).
  • You have a diet low in fiber and high in fat.
  • You began menstruating early or experienced menopause late.
  • You are obese (very overweight).

How Can you Check for Breast Cancer?

You need to take three steps to detect a breast cancer:

  1. Perform monthly breast self-exams.
  2. Have yearly well-woman exams that include manual breast examination.
  3. Have yearly mammograms once you are over age forty.

What are Some Possible Signs of Breast Cancer?

Any of the following changes in your breasts could be an indication of breast cancer. If you notice any of these changes, you should contact your health care practitioner immediately.

  • A lump
  • Dimpling or puckering of the breast or nipple
  • Nipple discharge
  • One breast hanging lower than the other
  • One breast growing bigger than the other
  • A change in the color or texture of the skin of the breast or nipple
  • Unusual swelling of the upper arm

For More Information...

For more information on breast cancer, please visit breastcancer.orgwomenshealth.gov, and the Komen Foundation.

"The Right to Know Campaign" , focusing on women with disabilities, is a package of free, online materials produced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It contains downloadable flyers, factsheets, tip sheets in English and Spanish, basic information, posters, and audio podcasts with transcripts of stories by four women with disabilities about their experience with breast cancer.

Books and More

Let’s Talk About Health: What Every Woman Should Know (video). Designed to help women with developmental disabilities feel more prepared for breast and pelvic exams. Takes viewer through each exam in a calm and informative manner. Contact the ARC of New Jersey, Women’s Health Project at 732.246.2525, ext. 28.

My Body, My Responsibility: A Health Education Video for Deaf Women (video, 2003). Educates young deaf women on important health care issues. Detailed information on breast self-exam. Models use a sign language interpreter in a healthcare setting. Contact University of Rochester Deaf Wellness Center, 585.275.6785.

Our Bodies, Ourselves for the New Century: A Book by and for Women, by Boston Women’s Health Book Collective (1998). Covers a range of women’s health issues including women with disabilities.