New York, USA – Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers amongst women in the United States for all major ethnic groups. In 2016, an estimated 3.5 million women in the U.S were living with breast cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, they estimate about 43,600 deaths from breast cancer this year. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women; however, since 2007, breast cancer death rates have been steady in women younger than 50 but have decreased each year from 2013 to 2018 by 1%. These decreases are because of finding breast cancer early on through screenings and awareness, and better treatments. Nonetheless, breast cancer incidence rates have still increased by .5% a year.
Furthermore, breast cancer incidence rates are highest amongst white women; however, Black women have a higher mortality rate than white women despite having a low incidence rate. These disparities can be explained by several factors such as lifestyle, socioeconomic status, and possible genetic and biological factors. Socioeconomic status, for example, can limit one’s access to screening and treatment. In addition, in black women, there is an earlier age peak in breast cancer when compared to white women.
In addition, screening for breast cancer is typically recommended for women no later than 50 but no earlier than 40. In addition, these screening mammograms take place once every two years. Though this procedure has been effective for specific groups, it isn’t practical for all. Black women are more likely to develop breast cancer younger than 50, especially if it is common in their family history. Black women are not being tested until they reach the ages of 40-50. When breast cancer goes unnoticed it begins to develop more and becomes less treatable. Often they have a more aggressive form of the disease called triple-negative breast cancer. This means cancer does not express the gene for estrogen receptor, progesterone receptor, or HER2 that can stimulate breast cancers to grow—and therefore is immune to many of the targeted treatments that can be used to block tumor growth. Triple-negative breast cancer tends to grow and spread more quickly than other types of breast cancer. Black women are three times more likely to develop triple-negative breast cancer than their White counterparts. Research indicates that 20 to 30 percent of breast cancers diagnosed in black women are triple-negative. This calls for a reform in the way black women are screened for breast cancer.
To ensure black women can get the necessary treatment and screening at a stage where it would be preventive, the age of screening should be lowered. Ideally, black women between the ages of 20-30 would receive annual or biannual breast cancer screenings. Therefore Sustainable Impact Makers International calls for more attention to be given towards providing access to younger black women access to screening with these following steps/ideas:
– Require that Medicaid still cover breast cancer screening regardless of age
– More promotions and campaigning around encouraging younger black women to get screened
– Clinicians/physicians place affirming advertisements that target younger black women to get tested in their practices
– Clinicians/physicians encourage younger black women to get screened during annual check-up exams, especially in regards to family history
– Require that all patients, once results are sent, receive a follow up within a week of screening
– Cultural competency training to address biases for physicians/clinicians
– The introduction of patient navigator programs to guarantee the patient receives follow-up and quality and timely care.
– Provide breast cancer education and awareness on posters located in physicians/clinicians practice
– A transparent conversation with physicians and younger black women on how birth control can impact one’s likelihood of getting breast cancer
– More funding towards preventive programs and research to prevent black women under 40 from not knowing their breast health status
– Partnerships built with small community-based grassroots organizations that can encourage and educate younger black women on breast cancer and the importance of getting screened
– Creating a forum/platform where black women can discuss breast healthFor more information and other inquiries, send an email or reach out via the website (https://www.sim-int.org/).