African American Women Have Lower Breast Cancer Survival Rates Than White Women

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Breast cancer in African American women is typically more aggressive than breast cancer in white women. Compared to white women, breast cancer in African American women tends to be:

  • diagnosed at a younger age
  • more advanced at diagnosis
  • more likely to be fatal at an earlier age

Now, a large study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has found that African American women continue to have lower breast cancer survival rates than white women.

The study was published in the Nov. 16, 2012 issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Read “Vital Signs: Racial Disparities in Breast Cancer Severity – United States, 2005-2009.”

Researchers analyzed information in two cancer registries in the United States: the National Cancer Institute SEER database and the National Program of Cancer Registries. The two registries combined cover the entire U.S. population, according to the researchers.

From 2005 to 2009:

  • 173,970 white women were diagnosed with breast cancer (about 122 cases per 100,000 women)
  • 21,942 African American women were diagnosed with breast cancer (about 117 cases per 100,000 women)
  • even though fewer African American women were diagnosed, they were 41% more likely to die from breast cancer than white women
  • African American women were more likely to be diagnosed with more advanced-stage breast cancer

Other research has found that African American women are less likely to get annual mammograms than white women and go for longer periods of time between mammograms.

While these results are troubling, research done in 2012 suggests that regular screening mammograms can help overcome these differences in outcomes and prognosis.

Regular mammograms are important for all women, especially African American women.

If you're 40 or older and have an average risk of breast cancer, yearly screening mammograms should be part of your healthcare. If your breast cancer risk is higher than average, you should talk to your doctor about a more aggressive breast cancer screening plan that makes the most sense for your particular situation.

There's only one of you and you deserve the best care possible. Don't let any obstacles get in the way of your regular screening mammograms:

  • If you're worried about cost, talk to your doctor, a local hospital social worker, or staff members at a mammogram center. Ask about free programs in your area.
  • If you're having problems scheduling a mammogram, call the National Cancer Institute (800-4-CANCER) or the American College of Radiology (800-227-5463) to find certified mammogram providers near you.
  • If you find mammograms painful, ask the mammography center staff members how the experience can be as easy and as comfortable as possible for you.

For more information, visit the Mammograms pages.

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