Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer among Black women, and the second leading cause of death for Black women. – Black Women’s Health Imperative (BWHI)
During 2016, says Komen, physicians will diagnose around 30,700 new cases of breast cancer among African-American women. The numbers don’t seem to be getting much better over the years either.
On a positive note, Komen reports that breast cancer’s incidence is slightly lower among African-American women than among white women. Breast cancer incidence is the rate of new breast cancer cases.
But the CDC found that for African-American women aged 45-64 years, breast cancer was the leading cause of death. That statistic is 60 percent higher than it was for white women. Deaths in 2016 from breast cancer among African-American women will likely exceed 6,300.
Breast cancer is more common for women later in life. However, the BWHI explains that for African-American women, the risk is higher in young women. Additionally, when affecting African-American women under 40 years old, it has a lower survival rate.
Breast cancer is often diagnosed in African-American women at later stages. Five-year survival rates are 10 percent lower for African-American women, according to Komen:
For those diagnosed from 2006-2012, the 5-year relative survival rate for breast cancer among African-American women was 82 percent compared to 92 percent among white women.
Let’s try to understand some of the reasons behind these statistics.
Biological and genetic differences may play a role, but the factors go beyond a simple physical explanation. Cancer is often diagnosed at later stages in African-American women. The cancer has already spread and in more advanced forms.
BWHI explains it this way:
Black women are two times more likely to develop triple negative breast cancer, an aggressive form of the disease which has fewer effective treatment options. Triple-negative breast cancers tend to grow and spread more quickly than most other types of breast cancer. We also are known to have denser breasts, one of the strongest predictors of risk for breast cancer and also a known factor limiting the sensitivity of a screening mammogram. Mammograms of breasts with higher density have been described as harder to read and interpret than those of less dense breasts. A small cancer can be concealed by dense breast tissue or by the overlap of normal breast structures.
Some of the responsibility lies on access to health care. Access to good health care is a major tool in fighting cancer. It’s no different for women of color. Detect breast cancer early, and there is a greater chance of survival.
Early detection and timely treatments save women’s lives, no matter their ethnicity.
African-American Breast Cancer Awareness at ITC
This month at I’m Taking Charge, in collaboration with the Black Women’s Health Imperative, we will talk early detection, treatment and reconstruction. We’ll focus on the different issues that face African-American women in their fight against breast cancer and the racial disparities along their journey.
Here are the rest of the articles in our September 2016 series on African American women and breast cancer.
If you found this article to be helpful, you might like our August 2017 series on African American women and breast cancer. Also, you might like to join our conversation on Facebook or visit us on Instagram and/or Pinterest.