Breast cancer is the second most common cancer in women, and is found in one in eight women in the United States. Although fewer African-American women get the disease, they are more likely than all other women to die from it.
Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among African American women. Tumors often are found at a later, more advanced stage in this group. So, there are fewer treatment options. Some other reasons for this may include not being able to get health care or not following-up after getting abnormal test results. Other reasons may include distrust of the health care system, the belief that mammograms are not needed, or not having insurance. Also, research has shown that African-American women are more likely to get a form of breast cancer that spreads more quickly.
There is no guaranteed way to prevent breast cancer, which is why regular mammograms are so important. A woman’s best overall preventive health
strategy is to reduce her known risk factors as much as possible by avoiding weight gain and obesity, engaging in regular physical activity, and minimizing alcohol intake.
There also are things you can do to find breast cancer early. Breast cancer screening looks for signs of cancer before a woman has symptoms. Screening can help find breast cancer early when it's most treatable. Two tests are commonly used to screen for breast cancer:
- Mammograms. A safe, low-dose x-ray exam of the breasts to look for changes that are not normal. Starting at age 40, women should have screening mammograms every 1-2 years. Depending on factors such as family history and your general health, your doctor may recommend a mammogram before age 40.
- Clinical breast exam (CBE). The doctor looks at and feels the breasts and under the arms for lumps or anything else that seems unusual. Ask your doctor if you need a CBE.
According to Susan G. Komen, disparities in breast screenings can be due to:
- Low income
- Lack of access to care (such as lack of a local (or easy to get to) mammography center or lack of transportation to a mammography center)
- Lack of a usual health care provider
- Lack of a recommendation from a provider to get mammography screening
- Lack of awareness of breast cancer risks and screening methods
- Cultural and language differences
The National Urban League works to ensure every American has access to quality and affordable health care solutions. This is more possible than ever with the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the law that makes preventive care—including family planning and related services—more accessible and affordable for many Americans. If you need help with ACA enrollment, contact your local Urban League office. The national office and our affiliates are working hard to make sure the uninsured can navigate the new health insurance marketplace.
» For more information about the Affordable Care Act, click here.
» For more information about African American women and breast cancer, visit the Office of Women's Health, U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services