Though Black women get breast cancer at a slightly lower incidence rate than White women, Black women are 42 percent more like to DIE of breast cancer than White women. That is an astounding number and indicative of a variety of factors, many reflecting racial disparities.
Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among Black women, and an estimated 33,840 new cases are expected to be diagnosed in 2019. An estimated 6,540 deaths from breast cancer are expected to occur among Black women in 2019.
Women do not need to DIE from breast cancer. It can’t be prevented but early stage breast cancer (meaning it has been localized within the breast) has a 99 percent five year survival rate. Note the inequity here: the overall five-year relative survival rate for breast cancer diagnosed is 81 percent for Black women versus 91 percent for White women. And, 54 percent of breast cancers in Black women are diagnosed at a local stage, compared to 64 percent in White women.
To add more fuel to the fire, Black women under age 35 get breast cancer at two times the rate of White women and DIE from breast cancer three times as often as White women.
So, what’s the problem? Why are Black women dying unnecessarily?
Higher death rates among Black women reflect the following:
WE MUST STOP THE SILENCE!
Early detection saves lives. Black women of all ages need to check their breasts monthly. We need to know what our “normal” feels like so if there is some abnormality, immediate action can be taken.
Black women need to understand the severity of this health crisis. We need to be talking about our health, our family histories, and educating all of the women in our lives.
The ongoing conversations in this country around access to affordable health insurance must include acknowledgement and action regarding the inequities for Black women.
Black women need to demand the attention and care of health care professionals.
We at Sisters Network, Inc., a sisterhood of survivors and thrivers, will continue to fight like girls and be the voice of Black women. We are committed to increasing local and national attention to the devasting impact that breast cancer has in the African American community. We are working diligently to reduce the mortality rate of breast cancer among Black women by generating awareness, garnering attention, providing access to information and resources, and supporting research efforts in the ecosystem.