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Why Black women are more at risk of dying from breast cancer

There are a number of factors that put Black women more at risk of dying after a breast cancer diagnosis.

Breast cancer impacts so many families. It turns out Black families are more likely to be negatively impacted, as Black women are more likely to die after a breast cancer diagnosis.

"One in 32 African American women will die from it as opposed to our counterparts which is one in 39," said Karen Anderson, a member of the National Breast Cancer Foundation Medical Advisory Council.

The reasons are multi-faceted, but Anderson says one of the biggest reasons data says Black women are more likely to die is delayed diagnosis. 

"Women of color are often diagnosed at later stages of the disease and often times diagnosed with a more aggressive form of the disease which causes a higher mortality rate," she said. 

That's why regular screenings and self-exams are so critical. Self-exams should be done once a month to check for lumps, thickening, hard knots or any other changes. Women over the age of 40 should be getting annual mammograms.

There's been a long-standing mistrust of healthcare in Black communities, forcing many women to skip recommended screenings. 

"There's a lot of myths and misconceptions out there that just aren't true," said Anderson. 

She suggests turning to trusted health professionals with similar backgrounds that can help dispel any rumors.

Studies show there also may be genetic factors that lead to this disparity, as well as environmental child-rearing factors, like breastfeeding.

Anderson says another reason for the racial disparities in surviving breast cancer has to do with conversations around healthcare in Black families, "We have to start breaking down these barriers and I think having real life conversations about this disease will benefit all women of color and their daughters to come."

Here are some resources for screening for breast cancer:

Breast cancer symptoms and signs

How to find a screening program near you

Misconceptions about breast cancer

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