Three Things You Need to Know About Breast Cancer & Cancer Disparities

September 4, 2019

When health care providers investigate cancer diagnoses and cancer survival rates, it is important for them to examine the disparities between various demographics and what causes these differences as they may impact treatment decision making and outcomes.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women living in the US. According to the American Cancer Society, there is a one in eight chance that a woman in the United States will develop breast cancer. African American women have lower rates of getting breast cancer than white women, yet they are dying at higher rates than white women. Here are three things you need to know about cancer disparities around breast cancer.

  1. Here are the facts: African American women are 42 percent more likely to die from breast cancer than white women. Studies have shown that even with the improvement in breast cancer detection and treatment over the past decade, there still exists a 10 percent difference in the rate of survival of African American women and white women.
  2. Why this is happening: Access to quality care can have a tremendous effect on the gap in survival between African American women and white women. Black women are more likely than white women to experience delays in treatment. Studies have shown that black women can experience delays in treatment of two months or more after the initial diagnosis. This is due to African American women being less likely than white women to receive timely follow-up after an abnormal or inconclusive screening mammogram. African American women also had greater difficulty scheduling follow-up appointments. These delays can result in larger tumors and poorer outcomes. Another factor can be the lack of access to newer treatments. As treatments become more individualized, not all options are always available to African American patients.
  3. How can we close the gap? Improving access to treatment, providing navigation resources to minority communities and providing resources for better health and wellness should be top priorities for healthcare providers. Increasing screening rates and providing timely access to care would help decrease the chances of tumor growth and a decrease in health risks. Providing patient navigation resources at the time of diagnosis would increase awareness of treatment options and free resources available to patients. Navigation services have been proven to increase the chances of survival. Increasing access to affordable, healthy food options in schools, workplaces and neighborhoods within the African American community would decrease the chances of health risks that lead to the development of cancer.

The Center for Disease Control offers uninsured and underinsured women access to no-cost screening, diagnostic, navigation, and education outreach services, as well as a pathway to cancer treatment. More than 180,000 African American women have received mammograms through this program.

We offer free resources that help African American women and others living with cancer navigate their diagnosis. Resources like diet and nutrition recipe guides, exercise plans, clinical trial resources and more are available here.