Race and Breast Cancer: Why the Disparities?

Nearly every Black women knows someone who was touched by breast cancer. Although incidence and mortality rates for breast cancer are lower in African-American women as compared to White women, Black women are generally diagnosed at later stages of breast cancer—and that can be matter of life or death. As we approach Breast Cancer Awareness month, EBONY.com has partnered with Susan G. Komen to help spread the word about disparity facts, and the good news about new research they are doing that will likely have a positive effect on the diagnosis and treatment of Black women with breast cancer.

Why are African-American women are more likely to get later stage diagnosis?

  • We wait. Access to screening is often a challenge for Black women in certain communities, but an unfortunate finding is that Black women also often delay follow-up of abnormal screening results or when we find something in our breasts that isn’t normal. 

Is it harder to treat breast cancer in Black women?

  • Oftentimes. Black women are more likely to be diagnosed with tumors that are larger and are more resistant, both of which are more difficult to treat. (Additionally, differences in access to care and treatment likely contribute to this disparity.)

Susan G. Komen is working to fix this disparity and to date has granted over $48 million to tackle breast cancer in the African-American community! And it doesn't end there. Komen is also investigating:

  • New genetic risk factors for breast cancer that are unique to African-American women
  • Patient navigation models to reduce barriers to timely and effective cancer diagnosis and treatment services
  • How cancer stem cells and other factors form that contribute to the increased incidence of triple negative breast cancer in African American women, to eradicate this deadly form of the disease
  • Developing global collaborations to identify the factors that contribute to the high incidence of early onset breast cancer among women in the African diaspora
  • Determining the role of lifestyle, social, and environmental factors on disparate survival outcomes, including diet, obesity, cultural barriers, and pollution

Some good news!

Komen has found that intervention programs that improve access to care, enhance communication between the surgeon and patient’s oncologist and follow patients throughout diagnosis, treatment, follow-up and support have been shown to reduce disparities in breast cancer care. Search the Internet for programs in your community.

Remember, mammograms and breast self-exams save lives!