October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a time to direct Black women’s attention to breast cancer and how they can prevent and survive this deadly disease. Black women are diagnosed with breast cancer less frequently than their White and Hispanic counterparts but have significantly lower survival rates than any other racial or ethnic group. While it is unclear why Black women are more likely to die from breast cancer than other women, this disparity is understood to reflect various biological, environmental, and economic factors, including less access to quality healthcare. Black women are also more likely to be diagnosed at a later stage in the disease and with more aggressive and deadly forms of the disease.
Black women can reduce their risk of breast cancer by focusing on lifestyle factors. Getting regular exercise, eating a nutrient-rich diet, maintaining a healthy weight, reducing alcohol consumption and avoiding tobacco smoke can help Black women prevent breast cancer as well as many other types of cancers and illnesses. Because early detection is key to successful treatment, Black women should also be sure to get regular mammograms beginning at age 40. Breastfeeding is also regarded as a preventive measure against breast cancer.
Many treatment options exist for breast cancer, depending on the type and stage, as well as the patient’s overall health and personal preferences. Normally, treatment includes chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and/or mastectomy (breast removal), but there are many variations and therapies. Fortunately, many, many Black women survive breast cancer and go on to live normal and healthy lives.