Black Women Are More Likely to Die of Breast Cancer. Here’s Why and What You Should Do

As you probably know, October is the National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Annual campaigns to increase awareness of the disease follow each other throughout these four weeks involving thousands of organisations, in order to highlight the importance of breast awareness, education and research.

But guess what is likely to be less included in the conversation? Black boobs.

Installations, social propaganda, leaflets, all feature white women’s chests. Even in 2019, those campaigns are far from being inclusive.

However, the low representation is not directly proportional to the number of black women facing the battle against breast cancer.

According to data presented in the report Race, Ethnicity, and the Diagnosis of Breast Cancer published by JAMA (a peer-review magazine that explore the latest in medicine), there is a huge bias in breast cancer screenings. Women of colour are less likely to be diagnosed at an early stage, and 40 percent more likely to die from breast cancer. This form of tumour is the second most common in American, still killing over 40,000 American women a year.

And despite the fact that death rates have dropped consistently over the last 30 years, mostly thanks to early detection and treatment advances, the disparity between races is still very high.

This indicates that not enough is being done to address the issue.

As proof, a recent study (Ad Council’s survey, conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs in 2018, on 810 black women ages 30-55) found that while 92%of black women agree breast health is important, only 25% of them have recently discussed breast health with their family, friends, or colleagues and only 17% of those talking about it have taken steps to understand their risk for breast cancer.

The research also found that race plays a major factor in surviving breast cancer. Black women are seven times more likely to die from the disease than white women.

According to the American cancer expert, Dr. David Agus, part of the reason may be that black women, on average, tend to have a higher body mass index, and obesity correlates with a higher breast cancer death rate. “And in addition, the biology may be different,” he said.

But unequal access to care might be the key.

“The interesting thing is in the state of Massachusetts, where there’s care for everybody, the death rates are similar between white women and black women. So I think there’s a lesson there that we have to increase access to care so we all get these remarkable advances that have happened in the treatment of breast cancer.”

What to do?

Identifying breast cancer early provides the best chance of surviving the disease. The best way to find breast cancer early is through breast awareness.

Most women are diagnosed as a result of investigation of a lump or other symptom, often found by the woman herself during normal routines, or by her partner.

But what are you looking for?

Breast changes to look out for include: a new lump, or lumpiness, especially if it’s only in one breast, a change in the shape or size of your breast, a change to the nipple, such as crusting, ulcer, redness or inversion,  a change in the skin over your breast such as redness or dimpling  or an unusual pain that doesn’t go away.

Your symptoms may not be due to breast cancer, and they may not make you feel unwell. But it is important that any symptoms you have are checked by a doctor, even if you are feeling alright.

The earlier cancer is detected, the easier it is to treat it and the more likely the treatment is to be successful. For everyone.

Written by Miriam Tagini 
Follow Miriam on Instagram & Twitter

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