Yvonne Orji Is Illuminating Black Women on Triple-Negative Breast Cancer’s Disproportionate Impact on Our Community

Image: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic for HBO

As defined by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is an aggressive form of breast cancer in which cancer cells have no receptors. The absence of these receptors means that doctors have fewer options for treatment. The five-year survival rate for someone diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer that has not spread beyond the breast is 91%, according to the Cancer Treatment Center of America. Sadly, Black women are more likely to be diagnosed with this pugnacious form of breast cancer and are 28 percent more likely to succumb to the disease than their white counterparts.

“We hear about breast cancer every October, but I didn’t know that there was another form of breast cancer out there causing mayhem in the lives of people who look like me,” Yvonne Orji tells EBONY.

The Insecure actress has partnered with Merck to raise awareness concerning triple-negative breast cancer and its devastating impact on Black women. Through the collaboration, Orji serves as a narrator for the pharmaceutical company’s three-part web series, Uncovering TBNC.

“I appreciate their desire to make sure that Black women are informed,” the comedian goes on about Merck’s endeavor to showcase TBNC’s disproportionate impact on Black women via the series, which profiles three survivors: Tiah, Damesha, and Sharon. “To hear their stories and [to hear about] the things that they experienced, they want to make sure that no one coming behind them experiences [what they went through]. That was so empowering. Black women are so known for doing that. We’re so known for saying, ‘That happened to me so I will make sure it doesn’t happen to the next person.'”

The program also sheds light on advocacy programs launched by some of the featured survivors. “The organizations that these women started to help advocate for Black women [shows that] you’re not alone. You’re really not alone. You have resources. You have the power to be your best advocate.”

In addition to the video series, Merck is offering a Heath Team Discussion Guide, which is available for download. The intended goal is that Black women who have been diagnosed with TNBC can use the pamphlet as an advocacy tool when consulting with physicians.

“There are resources,” says Orji. “If you don’t know how to talk to your healthcare professional and advocate for yourself, there’s a whole guide that you can print out and take with you so you’re empowered and not being rushed.”

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As with any form of cancer, the best gift is early detection. The American Cancer Society recommends that women begin annual cancer screening tests or mammograms at age 40. “One thing that I’m a big advocate for is to never feel helpless if you don’t have to,” says Orji. “Once you know, what do you do with the information that you have?” Orji questions. “A couple of months could make or break your ability to really fight it.”

To watch “Uncovering TNBC,” click here.

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