African American Women Need Earlier Screening for Breast Cancer
by Drahcir Semaj
Breast cancer is the second leading cause of death for women,
ages 40-55, and African American women under the age of 45 are
more likely to develop breast cancer than any other group of
women in the US.
Every three minutes a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer;
every 12 minutes a woman dies from breast cancer and every year
over 5000 African American women die from the disease.
Although the cause of breast cancer is still unclear,
researchers have determined that African American women tend to
develop breast cancer at earlier ages than white women and they
typically develop more aggressive types of tumors.
Breast cancer often occurs in African American women under the
age of 40 and as early as age 25.
In a study of breast cancer tumors in African American and white
women, conducted by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
in 2004, researchers determined that breast tumors in young
African American women were more likely to be fast-growing and
more aggressive than those found in white women. "One of the
important conclusions from this study is that even when you
correct for stage - that is, look at tumors of the same stage
from white women and African American women - tumors from the
African-American women tend to have features characteristic of
more aggressive and rapidly growing cancers," said Dr. Peggy
Porter, lead author of the study. "If their tumors tend to grow
more quickly, this may help to explain why their cancers are
being diagnosed at later stages, which can lead to poorer
Other studies have indicated that there are other possible
reasons that African American women suffer high death rates from
breast cancer: unemployment or underemployment, lack of health
insurance, and lack of proper health education have all been
cited as possible socioeconomic contributing factors.
Overall, over 16 million women nationwide lack health insurance
coverage and African American women are twice as likely to be
uninsured as white women; over 30 percent of African American
women live in poverty, and African American women are less
likely to get mammograms.
Regardless of the socioeconomic factors that may contribute to
the high death rate for African American women, medical
professionals agree that early detection is paramount to
surviving breast cancer and they've issued a number of
recommendations to help African American women detect the
disease in its earliest stages and improve their chances of
Medical professionals recommend that African American women
- Practice monthly breast self-examinations (BSE) starting at age
- Have a clinical breast examination, done by their
physician, at least once a year.
- Have at least one mammogram
completed, between the ages of 30 and 35.
- Have a mammogram
completed every one to two years until age of 50.
- After 50,
African American women should have an annual mammogram.
Breast cancer is a common disease among women of all races in
America. This year, more than 200,000 women will develop the
disease and 40,000 of them will die from it. Though African
American women have less incidence of developing the disease,
once diagnosed, their chances of survival are less than their
To increase their chances of surviving breast cancer, African
American women need understand the risk that breast cancer poses
to them and get screened for the disease earlier and more often.
For more information about breast cancer and your risk, please
contact your physician or visit:
National Breast Cancer Foundation:
Drahcir Semaj is a freelance writer who writes about issues
impacting the African American Community. He can be contacted at
his email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.