You and everyone you know has been touched in some way by breast cancer.

You and everyone you know has been touched in some way by breast cancer. While we are extremely grateful for all survivors (shout out to my friend Marie, my cousin Leslie, the original Shaft; Richard Roundtree, former Cleveland Browns fullback Ernie Green, Montel Williams and Mathew Knowles), there is still much work to be done toward finding the cure and permanently eradicating this heinous disease (rest in peace Fannie Lou Hamer, Blanche Bell, Freda Mays, Hattie McDaniel, Audre Lorde, Nina Simone, and Diahann Carroll).

Between 1999 and 2013, cancer incidence decreased among white women and increased slightly among black women. Now, current statistics indicate that black and white women get breast cancer at about the same rate.  And while deaths from breast cancer are going down among both black and white women, especially among younger black women, breast cancer death rates are still 40% higher among black women than white women.  About one percent of breast cancer diagnoses are men which amounts to about 2,000 men annually and approximately 440 deaths.  Like African American women, African American men are hit harder by breast cancer than their white counterparts. After diagnosis, African American men are three times more likely to die from breast cancer than white men. This disparity is most probably due to the same factors indicated by research involving African American women according to CDC (Center for Disease Control) statistics and other research.

Research further indicates black women are more likely than white women to get triple-negative breast cancer, a kind of breast cancer that is often very aggressive and re-occurs even after treatment.   Additionally, breast cancers in African American men have been found to be larger and already spread to the lymph nodes when diagnosed. Scientists are working to learn why these conditions exist and to find more improved treatments for them. This work has resulted in more women and men becoming more aware of the different kinds of breast cancer.  Now black women have slightly higher rates of mammography use than other women according to 2015 data. However differences in income, delays in follow-up after an abnormal mammogram, and access to follow-up care continue to affect survival rates among black women and men according to the most recent statistics.  Health agencies are working to educate men and women about the risk factors that increase the likelihood of their getting breast cancer, to ensure all are screened as recommended, and to ensure that those who are diagnosed with breast cancer can get the best available treatments.  The combined efforts of research organizations and healthcare agencies could reduce racial disparities in breast cancer.

Early detection is still key in the fight against breast cancer.  Until there is a cure, self-examinations, regular medical check-ups, mammogram, blood testing and breast MRIs are all highly recommended.   Visit https://www.cdc.govand https://ww5.komen.org/BreastCancer/RacialEthnicIssuesinScreeningfor more research and statistics.  The following organizations are dedicated to raising awareness and providing assistance to minorities:  Sisters Network Inc. at http://www.sistersnetworkinc.org, MaleCare at https://malecare.org, The African American Breast Cancer Alliance at https://aabcainc.org, and Black Women’s Health Imperative at https://bwhi.org.  Join the fight against breast cancer and take care of yourself.

About the author

Sharon Fletcher Jones is a true Libra, an action-ist, and a budget fashionista.  The Portsmouth, Virginia native is also an employment specialist with Goodwill Industries, a life coach and an associate editor at ONYX Magazine. Stacey’s mom (literally) has got it going on.  Fletcher Jones’ personal mantra is “It’s the dash that counts.”

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