Despite being less likely to get breast cancer than their white counterparts, black women who get the disease have a higher incident of death. But new research could finally tell clinicians how to close the mortality gap for black women.
According to a study published in Breast Cancer Research and Treatment, regular mammography screenings could help narrow the chasm between black and white women because.
Black women with breast cancer reach the disease’s late stages more often than white women, and their tumors are more likely to be larger and more biologically aggressive.
But according to the study, when women of both races received regular breast cancer screening — a mammogram within two years of breast cancer diagnosis — there was no difference in the rate of how many of them presented in the disease’s later stages.
The data result from a retrospective study conducted of women diagnosed with breast cancer from January 2001 to December 2006 at Rush University Medical Center and Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. Data were collected on 1,642 subjects, including 980 who were regularly screened and 662 who were irregularly screened.
“This study reinforces the fact that racial gaps in breast cancer outcomes can be improved,” said lead author Dr. Paula Grabler, an assistant professor of radiology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a radiologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. “One solution within reach is simple access to routine and regular mammography screening.”
One reason black women are not being screened for breast cancer in the earlier stages of the disease is because of inadequate access to health care. Of all the ethnic groups in the U.S., black women are the least likely to receive health care. And according to the Department of Health and Human Service’s Minority Women’s health website, when black women do receive care it is often times too late. Lack of resources, mistrust of the health care system, generations of racism and poverty, and limited access to health care service keep many black women from getting the care they deserve.
So what should black women do to stay healthy? Be vigilant.
If you don’t have heath insurance, contact organizations like Planned Parenthood and Black Women’s Health Imperative for information on obtaining care. Also, take care of yourself. Self-examinations, routine physicals, early detection, and moderate exercise are the best ways to prevent and/or treat breast cancer.