15 Life-Saving Tips You Don’t Know About Breast Cancer in Black Women

October 1, 2014  |  
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Think you know everything about screening for breast cancer? If you’e an african-american woman, chances are that’s not true. Breast cancer in Black women behaves differently, happens earlier and is deadlier — if you don’t know these life-saving tips we’re sharing this October which marks the beginning of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Black Women Are At A Lower Risk of Getting Breast Cancer

Fist, the good news. Black women are less likely to develop breast cancer than other groups. According to statistics gathered by the American Cancer Society, Black women only have a 1 in 9 chance of developing cancer in their lifetime. For white women the risk is 1 in 8.

But Black Women Are More Likely To Die From It

Now the bad news. For black women who do develop breast cancer, they’re 41 percent more likely to die of breast cancer than white women. Now that the shocking statistics are on the table, let’s talk about what you can do to turn those statistics around.

Find A Doctor Who Specializes in African-American Reproductive Health

Why are black women more likely to die from breast cancer? The preliminary research suggests that part of the reason is differences in African-American women’s reproductive biology. A doctor who specializes in black women’s health better understands the role that those differences play.

Insist on Following Up

Today, black women have mammograms at the same rate as the majority of the population. But when it comes to follow-up appointments after abnormal test results, they are still falling behind the pack.

Don’t let fear keep you from early treatment that could save your life. And if you don’t believe your doctor is proactive enough, get a second opinion.

Start Your Mammograms Early

Think you don’t need to start getting mammograms until you’re in your 40s? Not if you’re African-American. A recent study at the University of Chicago found that 40 is too late for many black women. Talk to your doctor about your risk factors and the ideal age for you to start.

Work It Out

Four out of five black women are overweight. And that extra weight leads to higher estrogen levels that increase your risk of developing breast cancer after menopause.


Dr. Olufunmilayo Olopade — recently appointed to the National Cancer Advisory Board by President Obama — says that stress combined with African-American women’s unique genetics could be the source of their higher breast cancer mortality rates.

Yoga, therapy and other stress-reduction exercises could reduce your risk of developing breast cancer and increase your risk of surviving it.

Schedule A Mammogram Every Year

While positive social and economic changes have resulted in black women getting mammograms at a higher rate than before, they are still behind the pack in annual screenings according to a study published in the Journal of National Black Nurses’ Association.

What you don’t know could kill you. A standing annual appointment could save your life.

Ask Your Doctor About Triple Negative Tumors

The most recently discovered threat to black women’s breast health are “triple negative” tumors. They are tough to detect, don’t respond to modern treatments, strike young women — and are twice as likely to affect African-American women.

You Need Health Insurance Now

As a group, African-American women are under-insured. Signing up for comprehensive insurance is the best way to keep annual mammograms from out-pricing you and putting your health at risk.

Insurance still out of the question? Check out these free and low-cost breast cancer screenings listed by the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program.

Cut Down on Drinking

Having three or more drinks a day can significantly increases your risk of developing breast cancer according to recent studies. And the more drinks you have a day, the greater your risk.

Know Your Risk Factors

Did you get your period before the age of 12? Does breast cancer run in your family? These and other risk factors increase the chances that you’ll develop breast cancer during your lifetime. Share these risk factors with your doctor even if they don’t ask.

Know That You’re Not Too Young

If you’re black, breast cancer is not an older woman’s problem. Talk to your gynecologist or general practitioner about early screenings and the fact that young black women under 40 are more likely to develop breast cancer than white women of the same age.

Self Exams May Not Be Enough

Black women’s breast tissue is denser. That means that self-exams often miss small tumors. Don’t wait to find a lump to make an appointment with your doctor. Schedule a mammogram to catch small tumors your fingers can miss.

Breast Cancer Survivor? You’re Not Out of the Woods Yet

Black women have a lower five-year survival rate than white women regardless of the stage at which breast cancer is diagnosed.

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