There is good news: breast cancer screening rates for African American women have gone up and continue to rise. There is also some disappointing news: African American women are less likely than white women to have breast cancer diagnosed at an early stage, when it's most treatable.
The reason for this difference isn't clear. The researchers offer several possible reasons:
- Screening rates for African American women with the highest risk of breast cancer remain unacceptably low.
- African American women have higher obesity rates. Research suggests that obesity may affect breast cancer occurrence and detection.
- African American women may be less likely to have a timely follow-up exam after an abnormal mammogram. This is the most troubling reason. The researchers suggest that the cost of a follow-up exam may be a major reason for the delay. If this is true, it's not acceptable.
Screening for breast cancer, including breast self-exam and mammograms, is important for ALL women. If you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, talk to your doctor about whether breast cancer gene testing might be right for you. When you have a mammogram, make sure you're notified when the results come in. If any of the results are questionable, ask your doctor about them right away. If cost is stopping you from scheduling a follow-up visit to your doctor, ask someone at the center where you had your mammogram for help. It's YOUR health and YOUR future and it's important that you follow-up.