Monday, December 3, 2012

Caucasian Women Have More Incidences of Breast Cancer but Have Fewer Deaths than African-Americans

According to the organization, Susan G. Komen For the Cure, breast cancer is the second most common cancer among women in the United States.  Simply put, cancer is a disease that causes cells to grow out of control.  Eventually, the cells form a lump or mass.

The United States National Library of Medicine states that breast cancer begins in the tissues of the breast.  There are two different types of breast cancer: ductal carcinoma and lobular carcinoma.  Lobular carcinoma begins in the lobules, which produce milk.  Ductal carcinoma begins in the ducts that move the milk from the breast to the nipple.  Ductal carcinoma is the most common form of breast cancer seen today.

Incidence rates are higher among Caucasian women

Source: Fox New Radio
The American Cancer Society states that breast cancer incidence rates are higher among Caucasian women than African American women.  From 2005-2009, the National Cancer Institute reported about 127,300 white women were diagnosed with breast cancer and 121,200 black women were diagnosed.  However, African Americans tend to have a higher incidence rate before forty years of age.

Mortality rates are higher among African American women

Although Caucasian women reported a higher number of incidences of breast cancer, African American women died more from breast cancer.  Of the incidence rates stated previously by the National Cancer Institute, 22,400 Caucasian women died from breast cancer and 31,600 African Americans died.

Symptoms are not shown differently among different races

Breast cancer generally shows no symptoms when the mass is small and when it can be treated the best.  But when the symptoms do begin to show, which is normally a painless lump, symptoms are usually shown similarly among African American women and Caucasian women.  Dr. Kerry Green, an assistant professor at the University of Maryland (UMD) in the Department of Behavioral and Community Health, says that other than the lump there are really no other symptoms related to breast cancer.  Green expanded upon her thoughts in an interview.

The lack of screening and diagnosis of breast cancer early causes more deaths

It doesn’t seem to add up why more white women have the disease but more black women die from it.  A lot of research has been conducted in attempts to try and understand this phenomenon.  According to Susan G. Komen For the Cure, this may be due to differences in specific risk factors, the biology of the breast cancer, but most importantly the breast cancer screening rates and treatment.  Green says, “When cancer is found early, there are a lot more treatment options. We also see that Caucasian women have higher rates of screening so they’re more likely to go in and get the mammogram at earlier ages.  They’re more likely to do the self-exam for a lump and also more likely to follow up with that.”  Another expert, Sherie Lou Z. Santos, the program manager of Project H.E.A.L., a research effort at the University of Maryland, confirms this in an interview.

The lack of health insurance and access to screening facilities lead to African American women not getting screened as often

There are a number of variables that can lead to African American women to not get screened as often if they do at all.  One variable could be the cost of getting screened especially if one doesn’t have health insurance.  Green states, “If you don’t have health insurance, you’re not likely to go and get a mammogram.  We see that Caucasian women have much higher rates of health insurance and better health insurance than African American women in general.  If you do find a lump, you have less treatment options if you don’t have health insurance.” Another variable could just be simply the lack of awareness about the disease and/or screening tests.  Some women also do not have access to screening facilities.
A non-expert knows that lack of early detection causes more deaths of the African American population
The experts know the reasoning behind why African American women tend to die more from breast cancer, but what do the non-experts think?  A non-expert, Tina Coleman was asked her opinion on the topic.  Coleman is a African American woman that survived Stage 3 breast cancer.

Breast cancer is a disease that can be overcome if detected early enough.  Self breast exams and mammograms should be done regularly to ensure that if cancer is detected then you will have a higher chance of survival.