Breast cancer is the second most common cancer among women in the United States. A recent study indicates that it affects black women differently from white women. For example, black women are much more likely to die from breast cancer.
Researchers at Sinai Urban Health Institute found that African-American women are 43 percent more likely to die from the disease, while the rate for Caucasians is significantly lower. The research also revealed that African-Americans make up the majority of the women diagnosed with the disease.
The study asserts that genetic differences could be the reason why black women have a higher chance of developing one kind of breast cancer tumor versus another.
According to Crain’s Chicago Business:
The study found that black women with a specific type of breast cancer a kind of malignancy that has estrogen receptors but lacks the so-called HER2 gene had a higher risk of recurrence than white women.
Cheryl Heinonen explained that there is a need to do more to ensure that all women have access to medical care whether or not they have the ability to pay for it. The NYDaily News agrees, supporting the belief that all woman deserve to have access to good health and quality of life.
Heinonen says that black women, who are diagnosed with this disease, are unable to keep up with scheduled medical appointments because they lack the financial resources to pay for treatments. She believes that the country needs to wake up and focus on what is important, medical care for all of its citizens.
After accounting for differences in income, screening rates, and access to care, the study shows that African-American women are often diagnosed with an advanced stage of breast cancer and therefore, have a lower survival rate than white women. Moreover, Heinonen claims that a lack of health insurance is the main reason for breast cancer screening gaps in the United States.
African-American women are diagnosed with breast cancer at a younger age than whites, with a greater frequency for blacks under the age of 50. The fact that most women are not aware that breast cancer can occur at any age makes the disparity between black and white women even worse.
Survival rates for women with breast cancer have been steadily improving over the past several decades. However, these improvements have not been shared equally among the races.
According to the American Cancer Society:
Black women are more likely than any other racial/ethnic groups to be diagnosed at later stages and have the lowest survival at each state of diagnosis.
Most women think they are healthy because they do not feel ill. Yet, all women are at risk for breast cancer. That is why it is important for women to get checked regularly. In fact, the disease is often discovered as an irregularity on a mammogram before it is felt or noticed by a woman or her doctor.
Points to remember:
- African-American women who are under the age of 40 are more likely to develop breast cancer than Caucasian women the same age.
- Black women tend to seek treatment when their cancers are more advanced, and when there are fewer treatment options.
- It is important that all women be checked for this cancer on a regular basis.
Given these facts, the gap between black and white women might begin to close if low-income patients are given regular access to doctors who are able to conduct proper medical test and exams for the early discovery of breast cancer.
Breast cancer exams and tests are available for free or a sliding scale rate in most communities.
By Kayla Burnett
Edited by Cathy Milne
Crain’s Chicago Business: The surprising reason black women die more frequently from breast cancer
NYDaily News: Breast cancer kills more black women than women: study
Sisters Network Inc: A NATIONAL AFRICAN AMERICAN BREAST CANCER SURVIVORSHIP ORGANIZATION
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