Advocacy group spreads awareness on impacts of breast cancer in Black women
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Black women in South Carolina and across the country are being disproportionally affected by the deadly impacts of breast cancer.
Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women in South Carolina, and the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths among women in the state, according to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.
For Black women, those impacts can be particularly deadly. Black women in the United States are 40% more likely to die from breast cancer, according to the Cancer Disparities Report from the American Association for Cancer Research.
“We are seeing that women, particularly women of color, African American women, are less likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer but are more likely to die from breast cancer,” Director of the Cancer Program at Roper St. Francis Dr. Megan Baker said.
Another obstacle is that providers are still playing catch up from the pause of screenings at many centers. She says they saw about a 25% decrease in screening during the 24 months of primetime COVID-19. They have worked hard to pick up screenings since then, but Baker says she thinks there’s still a lot of confusion about when to start screening.
“If we start later, for example at age 50, we miss those young women with breast cancer and we know that disproportionally in that age 40 to 50 age group, there’s more African American women in that age group so it’s very important particularly for African American women who are more likely to have dense breasts than Caucasian women that they get screened starting at age 40 if not sooner,” Baker said.
Nina Mitchell, the president of the newly formed Charleston chapter of the Sisters Network, was first diagnosed when she was just 38 years old. Mitchell now has stage four metastatic breast cancer.
“We are diagnosed faster and younger than our Caucasian sisters and even when we go through chemo or if we go through radiation, even different things with our skin and our hair are so different and these are the things we’re trying to bring to the forefront so people can understand there is a difference,” Mitchell said.
Sisters Network is a national African American Breast Cancer Survivorship Organization. She hopes her work with the new local chapter will help support and educate the African American community about the disease.
Mitchell says one of the biggest concerns she sees in the community is funding for screenings.
“A lot of women that live in the rural areas, they don’t have the money or they don’t have the insurance to get mammograms,” Mitchell said.
The Sisters Network is hosting a Pink Power Tour on April 1 in North Charleston. The event will have a triple negative breast cancer talk with multiple speakers. To learn more, click here.
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