According to a study released by the Avon Foundation Breast Cancer Forum, nearly five black women die needlessly per day from breast cancer in the United States due to lack of early detection. And while there are many awareness programs, walks and screening centers , especially during this time of year, the disparities of cancer mortality rates that exist between black women and white women are still of major concern. Although the risk of developing breast cancer is lower for black women, the death rates are comparatively higher than that of white women.

But race alone isn’t the primary factor as to why black women are dying from breast cancer at a higher rate. The Avon Foundation’s forum also reported that poverty and racial inequities are the primary factors driving the disparity … not genes. In a study presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting earlier this year, the research found that low-income cancer patients, and even older patients likely to have Medicare, may not have equal access to clinical trials. Patients with lower income were concerned about the financial burden of paying for participation in a clinical trial with contributing barriers being the high costs of co-pays, time off work, and other indirect costs.

To narrow the breast cancer disparity The Center for Disease Control launched National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program in 1991 providing breast and cervical cancer screenings and diagnostics to low-income, uninsured, and underinsured women across the United States. To find a local screening program in your city visit this website.

There’s also the factor of ignorance being bliss. According to an article in the Press Association, one third of women do not check their breasts for possible cancerous tumors because they are scared of what they might find. While fear and anxiety are understandable, postponing examination and screening for the disease could be fatal if the disease is not caught in the early stages.

The Black Women’s Health Imperative, a not-for-profit advocacy group with community-based initiatives that is working to eliminate breast cancer disparities among young black women provides easy steps for detecting and diagnosing breast cancer early:

  1. Ask your primary care doctor to show you how to properly perform a breast self-exam and perform it faithfully at the same time each month.
  2. Visit your provider for a clinical breast examination annually.
  3. Schedule regular mammograms and ask for a mammography that will help detect tumors.


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