When it comes to living with breast cancer, there are no shades of gray; black women are significantly more likely to die from breast cancer than white women. Though February is nationally recognized as our Black History Month, the racial disparity that still exists in our health care systems proves that total equality is still an ongoing goal for the future.
In 2014, the Sinai Urban Health Institute and the Avon Foundation for Women conducted a study of the death rates of white and black women due to breast cancer in 50 of the nation’s largest cities over a period of 20 years. The results were striking:
- Though white women are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer, on average black women are 40% more likely to die from it.
- The most lethal city is Memphis, TN where black women are more than twice as likely to succumb to the disease.
- Cities with the highest disparity rates are cities where there are geographically separated medical centers that serve either primarily black or white patients (with little racial mixing).
- The mortality rates were relatively even until 1995. After that, white women’s rates declined while black women’s rates stayed the same.
All of these startling figures beg the question why?Why did things change so drastically in 1995? Many researchers, including Dr. Whitman of the Sinai Urban Health institute, linked the decline in white women’s deaths with the rise of early detection practices like mammograms and clinical breast exams. These practices became more readily available to white women than black women, leaving them with fewer access opportunities and lower quality screening procedures where cancers were simply not detected.
Treatment cost is another major concern. The second highest indicator of racial disparity (behind the separated care centers for whites and blacks) was poverty. Cities with high percentages of people living under the poverty line were strongly correlated with a higher racial gap. For the women living in this state, of which the majority was black, it was their economic position which barred them from obtaining the same treatment options as white women.
Nobody, regardless of race, socioeconomic status or anything else, should be restricted from getting the help they need. That’s why CSC has dedicated so much time and so many resources into setting up channels for people to discuss their screening and treatment options. If you or someone you love is worried about their access to medical facilities, visit our Cost Information site to learn more about places to go for quality yet affordable screening, or check out our free Cost of Care eBook here. In addition, for questions specifically related to making a cancer treatment decision, CSC’s Open to Options is a service that looks at each case and customizes its approach on a person by person basis.
Cancer is enough of a battle without having to worry about substandard detection practices or the cost of health care, and we want to make sure that you receive the highest quality care possible.