SAYRE, Pa. (WENY) – New research shows breast cancer to be a leading cause of cancer death in Black and African American women.
According to the American Cancer Society, African American and Black women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer when compared with Caucasian women, the mortality rate is three times as high.
Debra Taylor is currently undergoing breast cancer treatment at Guthrie. She said she never expected to discover a tumor while taking a shower one night this past summer.
“I found this in the beginning of July,” Taylor said. “It felt like a pretzel with a blue ball on it.”
Guthrie’s Breast Program Director Dr. M. Firdos Ziauddin, MD, FACS, says this reality is becoming more common for African American women. He highlighted the discrepancy in stage at diagnosis, with 57% of Black women being diagnosed at early stages, but over two-thirds of white women diagnosed during the same stages.
“There are some aggressive types of breast cancer such as triple-negative breast cancer and inflammatory breast cancer, which seem to occur at higher rates in black women than in white women,” Ziauddin said. “We don’t have a clear explanation for why at this point.”
“I had a friend who died from breast cancer, another African American woman and I never thought… I just never thought it was any big deal,” Taylor explained.
Dr. Ziauddin believes part of the problem could be health care accessibility for African American and Black patients. He encourages those in need of treatment to seek out programs that can help provide support as they navigate the system.
“There are programs to provide funding for mammograms,” Dr. Ziauddin said. “Usually, social workers and healthcare systems have knowledge of these programs and, potentially, these programs could improve access to healthcare.”
Debra is still undergoing her breast cancer treatment today. She said she’s now preparing for radiation treatment in March.
For more statistics on cancer relating to Black and African American people, click here.