Previously, we discussed breast cancer, screening and prevention. I’m back to answer your questions and dig a little deeper. Although breast cancer is a prevalent disease, there are still unanswered questions and studies that are constantly being done.
What do we know for sure?
There are several risk factors for breast cancer. Risk increases with age. Women are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer after the age of 50. However, as stated in the previous article, African-American women are diagnosed earlier and have significantly higher mortality rates than other ethnicities.
How can we prevent this?
Breast exams, regular visits to the gynecologist, and being aware of changes in your body can save your life. Talk to your healthcare provider about any family history and your individual risk factors. Know your breasts, monthly breast self-exams are imperative.
What age group is more at risk for cancer in minority women?
Black women under the age of 40 are being diagnosed with more aggressive cancers and are more likely to die following diagnosis than White women.
Black women are also more likely to have an aggressive form of the disease called triple negative breast cancer. Triple negative breast cancers are associated with a poorer prognosis because there are not targeted therapies to treat it. Black women are also less likely to be diagnosed with estrogen-receptor positive disease, the most treatable form of breast cancer.
The racial divide in breast cancer mortality is due to a combination of factors. Healthcare disparities and genetic factors are both contributors. There is a lack of access to care. Patients that are diagnosed do not always get timely or appropriate treatment. Co-morbidities, such as diabetes, hypertension, and obesity lead to increased risk as well as more rigorous treatment plans.
Poverty, lack of education, physician bias and a variety of other factors can lead to substandard care which decreases the likelihood of survival.
In order to beat this phenomenon and begin to change outcomes, we have to educate ourselves. Increasing awareness, improving our access to care and ensuring early diagnosis will greatly impact our chances of survival.
We can reduce our risk factors by maintaining healthy lifestyles, engaging in regular physical activity, and listening to our bodies. Together we can prevent, screen, treat, and survive!