WASHINGTON, D.C. - Early breast health education may be the key to lowering breast cancer mortality rates in Washington, D.C., which has the highest rates in the country, according to research presented at the American Association for Cancer Research's Seventh Annual International Conference on Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research.
Project Early Awareness, a breast cancer education program of Howard University Cancer Center, brings a young survivor into high school classrooms to dispel breast cancer myths, provide breast cancer facts, and teach breast self exams. While only about five percent of breast cancer cases occur in women under the age of 40, learning to understand breast cancer at a young age may lead to early diagnosis later in life.
"We want young women to know and understand their bodies," said Kimberly Higginbotham, the program's instructor and a young breast cancer survivor. "The goal is for breast self exams to become routine."
The program, which started with three schools and has extended to 17, has instructed more than 2,800 girls and their families. Each student is given a pre-test and post-test to gauge the effectiveness of the program. Howard University has seen students increase their comfort and ability to perform a breast self exam by 39 percent and their ability to answer breast cancer questions correctly increase by 69 percent.
"We always see improvement between the pre-test and the post-test," said Higginbotham. "For example, a common myth about breast cancer is that it can be caused by getting hit in the breast. Students almost always put that it's true in the pre-test, but mark that it's false in the post-test."
Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women. The mortality rates are well above average for African-American women living in the District of Columbia. Project Early Awareness aims to focus on long-term solutions to help reduce health disparities, by ensuring women are aware of the screening tools available to them as they age.
Howard University Cancer Center has received requests to extend their program to other states. As a part of the session, they provide students with information to take home to their families to help increase the reach of the program.
The mission of the American Association for Cancer Research is to prevent and cure cancer. Founded in 1907, AACR is the world's oldest and largest professional organization dedicated to advancing cancer research. The membership includes more than 28,000 basic, translational and clinical researchers; health care professionals; and cancer survivors and advocates in the United States and 80 other countries. The AACR marshals the full spectrum of expertise from the cancer community to accelerate progress in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer through high-quality scientific and educational programs. It funds innovative, meritorious research grants. The AACR Annual Meeting attracts more than 17,000 participants who share the latest discoveries and developments in the field. Special conferences throughout the year present novel data across a wide variety of topics in cancer research, treatment and patient care. The AACR publishes five major peer-reviewed journals: Cancer Research; Clinical Cancer Research; Molecular Cancer Therapeutics; Molecular Cancer Research; and Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. The AACR's most recent publication and its sixth major journal, Cancer Prevention Research, is dedicated exclusively to cancer prevention, from preclinical research to clinical trials. The AACR also publishes CR, a magazine for cancer survivors and their families, patient advocates, physicians and scientists. CR provides a forum for sharing essential, evidence-based information and perspectives on progress in cancer research, survivorship and advocacy.