Black Women Are At An Increased Risk Of Getting Aggressive Forms Of Breast Cancer
Black women under the age of 50 are more likely to develop an aggressive form of breast cancer and are less likely to be diagnosed early than non-Hispanic white women, according to News Medical. This startling statistic is the result of research on genetic traits that lead to deadly forms of breast cancer.
Research shows that 5 percent of all women diagnosed with breast cancer inherited either the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genetic mutation. But one study found that black women inherited BRCA mutations at a much higher rate.
The Moffitt Cancer Center examined 400 young black women diagnosed with invasive breast cancer and found that 12 percent inherited BRCA mutations, reports U.S. News and World Report. This rate of inherited mutation is much higher than it is in non-Hispanic white women. Even more alarming is that the researchers have no idea why the disparity is so high.
The other disturbing discovery is that there is no sure-fire way to know if a woman is more likely to carry the BRCA gene, because hereditary factors don’t always determine who has the trait.
Researchers found that approximately 40 percent of research participants with BRCA mutation have no close relatives with breast cancer. Nor is there a family history of the disease. This means that the only way young black women can find out if they have the BRCA genetic trait is to undergo genetic testing for BRCA.
Unfortunately, too few women of color get breast cancer screenings. This is dangerous, because black women who develop breast cancer are more likely to have the triple-negative form of the disease, reports Black Women’s Health Imperative.
Black women diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer have a 77 percent five-year survival rate, compared to 90 percent for white women.
Triple-negative breast cancer is highly aggressive and spreads through the body much quicker than other types of breast cancer. Black women diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer have a 77 percent five-year survival rate, compared to 90 percent for white women. Considering the fact that younger black women are far more likely to develop this highly aggressive cancer, more needs to be done to educate young black women about the importance of pre-cancer breast examinations.
Currently, about 50 percent of black women who go in for medical services receive genetic cancer testing and counseling. Furthermore, black women with higher incomes and private insurance are more likely to be referred for genetic BRCA screening than women of lesser means.
While patients with triple-negative breast cancer tend to be referred for genetic counseling, too many black women are slipping through the early detection cracks in the health care system. By a large degree, race, education and income are determining factors for early warning of high-risk breast cancer.
Only 50 percent of black women who go in for medical services receive genetic cancer testing and counseling.
Reversing this trend involves educating more young black women about breast cancer detection as well as ensuring the medical community is actively working toward closing this diagnosis gap.
Self-examination for breast abnormalities is one of the best ways to screen for breast cancer. It only takes a few minutes to check each breast for lumps and sensitivity. Breast cancer symptoms include a hard mass with irregular edges, dimpling, pain near the nipple and swelling. Any woman detecting these signs should immediately contact her medical provider.
Periodic mammograms are also recommended, but not fool-proof in detecting cancer in black women. Because black women tend to have denser breast tissue, they need to request that screening be done using the latest technology.
It is clear that much work needs to be done to educate young black women about their increased risk of advanced breast cancer. Getting the word out requires a coalition of medical providers, breast cancer activists, and community leaders.
While breast cancer rates are alarmingly high for black women between the ages of 45 and 64, younger women are extremely vulnerable as well. Women in general, and especially young black women, have to be vigilant about receiving adequate counseling, pre-screening and care in order to remain healthy and cancer-free.