Breast Cancer in African-Americans – Advanced Breast Cancer with Robin Roberts
Why Breast Cancer Is Killing More African-American Women
Survival rates for women with breast cancer continue to rise overall, but the news for African American women is not as positive.
By Everyday Health Staff
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Bridgette Hempstead of Seattle was 35 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer 15 years ago. Back then, her doctor said she was too young for a mammogram. Unconvinced, she demanded one, and the experience pushed her to become an advocate for African-American women, who are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer at a younger age, often have more aggressive tumors, and are about 36 percent more likely to die from breast cancer than white women. Between 2001 and 2007, the five-year relative survival rate for white women with breast cancer was 90 percent, while for black women it was only 77 percent.
Pat Dawson, MD PhD, a breast surgeon at the Swedish Cancer Institute in Seattle, says the causes of this health disparity are complex. "Clearly there are reasons related to access [to healthcare], there are cultural beliefs related to women going in for screening, there are issues around having health insurance or not having insurance,” according to Dr. Dawson.
Screening mammograms help save lives, so mobile mammogram units are spreading the message to black women at churches and other public venues, but more needs to be done, says Hempstead: “We need to improve survival rates for all women with breast cancer, but we need to make sure there aren’t disparities based on race or ethnicity.”
Do you have experience with breast cancer? Have you ever insisted on a mammogram a doctor said you didn't need? Share your story below.
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