Breast Cancer Is For Everyone, But Breast Cancer Survival Is Not: On The Racial Survival Gap In America

Breast Cancer is a disease that effects women and sometimes men from all races and walks of life; however with deeper research, it was discovered that African-American and Hispanic women are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer in the late stages. Recently, more intricate studies have focused on the causes of this reality and came up with some definitive environmental and genetic factors that lead to these two groups of women developing breast cancer less often, but being diagnosed much later than women of other races.

In a recent study conducted by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, it was discovered that African-American and Hispanic women are also more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer in the late stages, and with aggressive forms of the disease that often resist modern drugs. To uncover that causes of these late diagnosis, the study researched 102,064 women at 18 different cancer centers who also differed socially, economically, and culturally, according to TIME. The study found that both Hispanic and African-American women showed a diagnosis rate of 20 to 60 percent higher than Caucasian women, Asian women and other races. Also among the women with a higher rate of late breast cancer diagnosis were Native American women.

It was discovered that the causes of late diagnosis in these groups varied. Having breast cancer alone is generally associated with genetics. However, for late diagnosis, culture and socio-economic status plays a large role. The study’s lead researcher, Lu Chen, recently made a statement about these differences.

“There are a lot of reasons why these women have a higher incidence of particular subtypes of breast cancer that may have something to do with genetics and biological factors. But being diagnosed at a later stage and not receiving treatment—these disparities we think have more to do with social, cultural and economic factors.”

When the researchers looked into what social or cultural factors contributed to late diagnosis of African-American and Hispanic women, and how these factors greatly differed for Caucasians women, they found that much of the problem is the lack of wellness visits geared toward breast health by Hispanics and African-Americans. Specifically, Hispanics and blacks in the United States are less likely to get annual mammograms than others, causing any detection of breast cancer to only occur when they experience symptoms. This reality has caused a massive survival gap among races of women who have breast cancer. In short, white women are more likely to be breast cancer survivors than black and Hispanic women.

These results may appear to be controversial because so many strides have been made toward better breast cancer treatments and even possible cures. However, diagnosing breast cancer late reportedly limits both the number of treatments available and the level of effectiveness of existing treatments. As the study showed, over 35 percent of African-American women are diagnosed with breast cancer at Stage II. Their chances of survival are far less likely than the over 50 percent of Caucasian women who are diagnosed in Stage I. For Hispanic women, the chances of surviving breast cancer are the lowest of all, as more than 15 percent of Latina women are diagnosed with breast cancer in Stage III. To decrease the number of blacks and Hispanics who die from breast cancer due to social, cultural, and economic factors, there are many awareness campaigns that exist to prevent this in the future.

With the know risk factors of developing breast cancer being body weight, age at first period, age at menopause, age at first childbirth; it is no secret that in many ways, developing breast cancer can be prevented. However, it is also a fact that in many cases, it cannot be prevented. To ensure that black and Hispanic women have an equal chance of surviving breast cancer, the government has recently taken the initiative to see that most citizens are insured so that more black and Hispanic women will go to the doctors annually, especially for gynecological wellness visits that include breast examinations.

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