In the United States, Breast Cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women. Although there have been significant advancements in breast cancer treatments over the past 40 years, Black women have the highest breast cancer mortality rate of any US racial or ethnic group.
The disproportionate gap in breast cancer incidence and outcome among Black women cannot be attributed to a single issue. Various social, economic, and behavioral factors impact the rates of breast cancer screening, late state diagnosis, and inadequate treatment. Access to care and exposure to carcinogens are significant issues but genetic and tumor biology have increasingly widened the gap for how Black women are impacted by breast cancer.
Black women are also disproportionately affected by triple-negative breast cancer, a rare but more aggressive form of breast cancer that does not respond to hormonal treatment. According to the American Cancer Society, triple-negative breast cancer is about twice as common in Black women than white women in the U.S., and a contributor to the lower breast cancer survival rate among Black patients.
The best protection for black women is early detection. The American cancer society suggests that women should have the choice to start screening early with yearly mammograms beginning at age 40. For women with a family history of breast cancer, the risk is higher and it is recommended that screenings are started earlier.
Getting a mammogram, an x-ray of the breast, is currently the best way to find cancer early when it is easier to treat and before it has gotten big enough to cause symptoms.
Another important factor in prevention is simply being self-aware. Being familiar with the look and feel of your breast will help you to notice symptoms that may be of concern, such as experiencing lumps, pain, or changes in size.
American Cancer Society. “Cancer Facts & Figures for African Americans” https://www.cancer.org/research/cancer-facts-statistics/cancer-facts-figures-for-african-americans.html
Allison, Courtney. “What Black Women Need to Know About Breast Cancer” https://healthmatters.nyp.org/what-black-women-need-to-know-about-breast-cancer/
Yedjou, Clement. “Health and Racial Disparity in Breast Cancer” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6941147/
Breast Cancer Research Foundation. “Black Women and Breast Cancer: Why Disparities Persist and How to End Them” https://www.bcrf.org/blog/black-women-and-breast-cancer-why-disparities-persist-and-how-end-them/