Breast Cancer Disparities and Black Family Cancer Awareness Week

This blog was authored by Sheila Johnson. Sheila is a pioneering breast cancer advocate with a particular focus on the Black community. She is a member of Medidata’s Patient Insights Board.

Being diagnosed with Metastatic Breast Cancer (MBC) was one of the scariest moments of my life. My mom received the same diagnosis in 2001 and died of MBC in 2004; I received my diagnosis in 2009, five short years after my mom’s passing. I didn’t know the statistics of breast cancer and the Black woman, so it was alarming when I found out cancer is the second leading cause of deaths among Black women.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Black women and white women get breast cancer at about the same rate. Black women, however, die from breast cancer at a 40% higher rate than white women. There has been a notable increase in breast cancer deaths among Black women despite a general decline in overall breast cancer rates among women in the US. Research on the reasons for racial and ethnicity disparities in breast cancer incidence and mortality rates is not conclusive. Some notable possible risk factors include socioeconomic status, late stage of breast cancer at diagnosis, biological or genetic differences in tumors, and differential access to health care and disease-related molecular mechanistic differences. 

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