Why are African-American women more likely to die from breast cancer than any other group?

African American women increased risk of breast cancer

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - A Birmingham woman is fighting to save her own and other lives from a disease African-American women are more likely to die from than any other group.

Thelma Brown said it’s a startling fact that you don’t hear about often.

“I’m one of the lucky ones,” said Brown.

Brown is a two-time breast cancer survivor. She is now in remission and on a mission to save other women like herself.

“We’re seeing more African-American women diagnosed with breast cancer in their 20s and 30s,” said Brown.

Although black women are diagnosed with breast cancer at a slightly lower rate than other ethnicities, the mortality rate is disturbing.

“The startling fact is we die,” said Brown.

Black women are 40% more likely to die from breast cancer than other women, according to Susan G. Komen.

Brown has a family history of breast cancer. Brown’s mother and four of her nine sisters were also diagnosed. Two sisters did not survive.

Brown said the reason for the disparity is multifaceted.

“We are very often diagnosed at a later stage. We’re diagnosed at an earlier age. We are also diagnosed with more aggressive tumors,” said Brown.

Additional factors include poverty and lack of access to care, according to Brown, who said the lack of knowledge drives her passion for educating under served groups.

Brown is involved with the Know Your Girls campaign pioneered by Susan G. Komen and the Ad Council.

The program educates women of color about breast cancer and its symptoms, which Brown said won’t always be a lump.

“So many breast cancer symptoms do not have a lump. You have to look for other things like a discharge from the nipple; an itchy, scaly spot that won’t go away; pain in one spot that won’t go away; change in size,” said Brown. “All of those things have nothing to do with a lump, but those are all things that we need to know about.”

You can help in the fight against breast cancer this Saturday at the annual Susan G. Komen Race For the Cure. This year’s 5K race is at Railroad Park. WBRC is once again a proud sponsor and we hope to see you there.

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