Monday, November 29, 2021

Breast Cancer Awareness Month – Creating A Better Message For African-American Women.

October 27, 2021 by  
Filed under Health, News, Opinion, Weekly Columns

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( While it is more statistically likely to affect older White women, for reasons not fully understood, it has been found that Black women have a higher chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer at younger ages and have higher mortality rates compared to White women and other ethnic groups. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), Black women have the lowest survival rate of any racial or ethnic group. Based on ACS facts and figures from 2000 to 2010, breast cancer mortality increased from 30.3% to 41.8% among Black women. At an advanced stage, 5% of breast cancers are detected among White women compared to 8% of breast cancers among Black women according to the ACS facts and figures for 2013 to 2014.

It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month and this is a topic that is near and dear to my heart. As an African American woman, breast cancer has affected me greatly having lost many family members to it. Yet, breast cancer is very treatable and survivable when screened for and caught early.

black woman mammogram

Lower incomes, lack of quality health insurance or medical care, trust in the medical system, spirituality, and understanding of the disease all play a vital role in Black women getting the help they need to increase their chances of survival. I believe that promoting awareness is key, but the message isn’t the same for all women. With cultural differences and socio-economic factors at play, we need to craft a better message for Black women to let them know their screening options, how to reduce their risks, and what can be done if they are diagnosed.

The COVID-19 pandemic did not help matters when it came to necessary screenings and preventive measures in all types of diseases, including breast cancer. Many health care facilities at the start and height of the pandemic cancelled “unnecessary” procedures and testing. Many people were scared to go into medical facilities for fear of catching the virus or they lost their health insurance because of a reduction in work hours or job loss. This only exacerbated the awareness and screening issues already in play. It made screening easier to put off with a “wait and see” attitude.

But Black women, and all women, need to understand just how important early detection is and how it can truly save their lives. The two top ways of doing this are by doing monthly self-breast exams and by getting an annual mammogram. Both are quick and easy and known to be the most effective ways of protecting yourself. But the message needs to be clearer, more inclusive, and meet the needs of Black women where they are in their own lives and consider differences in cultural beliefs and attitudes. Myths need to be dispelled and more trust needs to be built so Black women can feel safe and cared for through the process and get the best possible information for themselves.

For women who fall into a lower income or may not have insurance and worry about the cost of a mammogram, don’t let that be an excuse! There is always help. Contact the Washington State Department of Health for more information on their Breast, Cervical and Colon Health Program that provides free breast cancer screenings to eligible women.

Written by Ahndrea Blue

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