Breast cancer leads every other cancer in affecting women and causing cancer-related deaths. The risk of a woman being diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States is 1 in 8. Race and ethnicity are significant factors when it comes to the diagnosis of breast cancer in women. Although White women have a slightly higher rate of breast cancer than Black women, there are still many differences that cause more Black women to die from this type of cancer. Black women are three times more likely to die from breast cancer than White women.
The most commonly diagnosed cancer among Black women is breast cancer. After lung cancer, it is the second cancer that causes the most deaths in Black women. The overall mortality rate for African American women with breast cancer is 31%, which is the highest of any other racial or ethnic group in the United States.
Why are More Black Women Dying from Breast Cancer?
Triple-Negative Breast Cancer
Triple-Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC) is one of the most aggressive forms of breast cancer that shows up in about 15% of all United States and Europe diagnoses. TNBC is more commonly found in Black women than White women, showing up twice as much with 30% of all cases. This type of breast cancer is harder to detect in the standard mammogram and often causes larger tumors. Chemotherapy is more likely to be required for treatment.
Access to Healthcare and Insurance
Studies conducted by the American Cancer Society have concluded that the two main reasons for breast cancer-related deaths are lack of insurance (both private and Medicare) and critical tumor conditions in patients under the age of 65. Because Black women may not have access to healthcare and insurance, the rate at which they are screened during mammograms may be lower than in other communities. Black women may not have the means to follow up with regular physicals or receiving diagnostic testing if they receive abnormal mammogram results. It has also been reported that Black women do not receive quality medical treatment compared to White women.
Lifestyle Habits Promoting Risk
Due to economical and geographical factors, several lifestyle habits are developed within the Black community that can contribute to increased health issues, including breast cancer. Having poor nutrition due to lack of access to healthy food has led to higher obesity rates. There are also many African Americans who live in areas where there is little to no access to safe sidewalks, parks, and other places for physical activity. Thus, unhealthy habits are formed early in life that can have a harmful effect on the body.
Harmful Chemicals in Products Targeted at Black Women
Many cosmetic products that contain harmful ingredients are often marketed towards Black women. Products such as hair relaxers, nail treatments, and skin lighteners contain chemicals that have been linked to several types of cancers. However, many companies have targeted Black communities when advertising these potentially dangerous products.
What Role Does Age Play?
It has been found that Black women are diagnosed at earlier ages than White women. In the United States, about 11% of all new breast cancer cases are found in women younger than the age of 45. Research also shows that African American women under 35 years of age have higher breast cancer rates than White women who are the same age. The rates are about two times higher.
Reducing the Risks
While self-examining your breasts cannot solely determine whether you have breast cancer or not, it is essential for you to keep up with any changes in appearance or feelings to help with detection. Self-exams should be used in combination with regular physical exams and mammography. If you’re not sure what you should be checking for, you can consult with your physician to walk you through the proper way to give yourself an exam. If you happen to find a lump, remember to stay calm and schedule an appointment with your physician. All lumps are not a sign of cancer.
Mammography for More Effective Results
One of the most important screenings for breast cancer is mammography. To get more accurate information on your breast health status, you should schedule your screenings based on your physician’s recommendations. If you have relatives who were diagnosed with breast cancer early on in life, it would be beneficial to begin your yearly mammograms before the age of 40. This is also true for those who have a known breast cancer gene (BRCA) mutation.
Learning Your Family History Could Save You
Whether it’s an inherited gene mutation or common trait (or lifestyle), the risk of breast cancer in Black women can be increased due to family history. Knowing more about your family’s health history early on is one of the most important factors for breast cancer detection. Being aware of the conditions that run in your family can give your doctor insight to develop a plan of action for prevention.
Genetic tests are performed with blood or saliva samples to determine if there is an inherited gene mutation. Genetic testing can be done at a doctor’s office, hospital, or clinic. Tests can be free or covered under insurance if a physician recommends it. Tests results play a significant role in understanding the risk; however, receiving a positive test does not guarantee that you will one day get breast cancer. Testing negative also does not eliminate the overall risk. The goal is to give you a better view of your health and how changing your lifestyle habits can save you.
Lifestyle Changes Are Necessary for Better Health
Developing a healthy daily routine for your lifestyle will help you reduce the risk of developing breast cancer. Eating a nutritious and nourishing diet while incorporating exercise into your schedule is essential to changing your lifestyle. Also, limit your intake of alcoholic and sweet beverages. What’s most important is to be vigilant about seeing your doctor for regular physicals and making a commitment to living a well-balanced life.
American Cancer Society: Cancer Facts and Figures 2019
What Black Women Need to Know About Breast Cancer Now
African American Women and Breast Cancer
Breast Cancer is the Most Imperative Health Issue Facing African American Women!
What Effects Your Chances Of Getting Breast Cancer – Race & Ethnicity