As we launch into breast cancer awareness month, I would like to bring attention to two areas that easily get overlooked. First is the effect of breast cancer and its mortality in men, and secondly, the higher death rates in black women with breast cancer.
Although breast cancer is less common in men, it carries a greater risk of death because awareness among men is lower, which can cause a delay in seeking and receiving treatment. A higher sense of alertness is critical to improving vigilance and earlier treatment in men diagnosed with breast cancer.
The other high-risk group is black females. Did you know that according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Black women and white women get breast cancer at about the same rate, but black women die from breast cancer at a higher rate than white women?” https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/breast/statistics/
In the general population, breast cancer affects one in every eight women. Even though black women are less likely to develop breast cancer, they are 40% more likely to die from it than are white women. The sad truth is that black women under the age of 35 are twice as likely to get breast cancer and three times as likely not to recover from it. The question here is, why?
In addition to various scientific articles, a recent Fortune.com article investigates and explains why. “When it comes to treating cancer, black women are underserved at almost every step of treatment – including before they are diagnosed.” It goes on to note that this “is visible at every step of the Black woman’s experience as she develops breast cancer, from the preventive care she is less likely to receive to the treatments that are less available to her.” The article also reveals that “Black women are at higher risk for a particularly aggressive type of “triple-negative” breast cancer, yet they are still largely omitted from clinical trials of drugs that treat the disease.” https://fortune.com/2020/06/30/black-women-breast-cancer-mortality-racism-healthcare-pandemic/
According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, 36% of doctors are women of any race. And although 13% of the U.S. population is Black, only 5% of all active physicians are Black. The numbers are equally bad for physicians who are Hispanic or Latinx. This is why I tirelessly advocate for greater cultural competence and diversity of skilled individuals in the medical field because of better individual health results in better population health for any nation. (My article on Cultural Competence And Ethnic Diversity In Healthcare discusses these key issues and is available here –https://www.ncbi.nim.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6571328)
In order to help Black women receive equity and equality in their health care treatment, we have to become aware of these discrepancies so that we can work together to improve outcomes for this population. I have included a list of organizations published at colorlines.com that work to raise awareness, and bring education, support, policy advocacy, and research to how breast cancer impacts black women. I hope you’ll participate to help bring increased awareness and bring about change.
African American Breast Cancer Alliance provides education and emotional and social support for breast cancer survivors and their families.
Black Women’s Health Imperative is dedicated to improving health outcomes for Black women via policy advocacy, research translation, and targeted initiatives.
Sisters Network Inc.’s mission is to increase attention to the impact breast cancer has on the Black community.
Sisters on a Mission works to improve breast cancer outcomes for African-American women via proactive outreach.
If you would like more information or if you would like me to speak to your organization via Zoom, please do not hesitate to reach out to me.