Black women battle triple negative breast cancer at alarming rates (VIDEO)

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In January, 2005, Stephanie Mims-Broady knew she had breast cancer.

“I was just touching [myself] and thought I might as well do the [self breast exam] because I had been doing it on a monthly basis—and I found the lump,” she said.

But she was too busy to act on the lump she had found. She was taking care of her ailing mother—who would lose her battle to lung cancer later that month.

Soon after her mother passed, Stephanie received more sobering news from doctors—she did in fact have breast cancer.

And she learned the type of breast cancer she had was more aggressive than most.

“The initial lump was like the size of my fingernail, but by the time they removed it, it was the size of an un-shelled walnut,” she said. “So it was rapidly growing.”

Stephanie’s cancer is known as triple negative, a type of breast cancer that affects tens of thousands of women each year, especially young women.

Dr. Kathie-Ann Joseph is an assistant professor of surgery at New York University’s Langone Medical Center. She says women with triple negative breast cancer lack three hormone receptors known to fuel breast cancer tumors—which means many of the most common drugs and therapies won’t work.

The form is rare—it accounts for roughly 10 to 20 percent of all breast cancer cases nationally—triple negative does mirror many breast cancer trends for minority patients.

“About 30 percent of the cases, of breast cancer in African-Americans in this country, 20 to 30 percent are triple negatives versus about 10 to 15 percent in white women,” Dr. Joseph said. “So it’s not exclusive to African-Americans, but it is certainly higher.”

The same is true for Hispanic women, which Dr. Joseph says may have something to do with the presence of certain gene types.

And while triple negative research is relatively new, experts agree early detection is still the best scenario for any patient.

As for Stephanie, who is 51 and a full-time singer and songwriter, next February, she will officially become a six-year breast cancer survivor.

“I don’t wait to put on my good clothes anymore,” Stephanie said. “I don’t wait to use my good china anymore. There are no special things anymore because everyday is special.”

Follow theGrio’s Todd Johnson on Twitter at @rantoddj