Black women and breast cancer: Why are African-American women more likely to die of the disease?

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From Ebony.comAlthough 1 out of 8 women will develop breast cancer in the United States, it remains deadliest for black women.  A recent study by the Sinai Urban Health Institute in Chicago, IL reveals that African-American women are more likely to die of breast cancer not due to genetics, but because of racial disparity and inequality in health care.  Subsequently, nearly five black women needlessly die everyday because they lack the proper information and quality services.

The realities of inadequate health care, access, and poverty in the black community are also mixed with fear, silence, and suspicion of the medical system who only fifty years ago purposefully infected 400 poor black men with syphilis in a medical study known as the Tuskegee experiment.

Mistrust and historic disenfranchisement greatly impact those battling breast cancer, a disease that has a 98 percent survival rate if caught early.  In an interview with Dr. Regina Hampton of the Capital Breast Center The Washington Post writes of this skepticism:

… Hampton and others think [black] women also carry angst stemming from a historically unhealthy relationship between African Americans and a medical system that was inaccessible. Often lacking the money or insurance for preventive care, many [black] people didn’t seek medical help until they were seriously ill.

In addition to black women, black male breast cancer patients and survivors like African-American icon Richard Roundtree who played John Shaft in the 1970s blaxploitation action film Shaft, face the same barriers compounded with the social stigma with having an illness that rarely impacts men.  Because male breast cancer accounts for just one percent of all breast cancer diagnoses, black men are even less likely to visit their healthcare provider upon discovery of a lump.  Roundtree, a breast cancer survivor since 1993, is an outspoken advocate male breast cancer and encourages others to break the silence and seek treatment.

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