• By Joe Dangor

Breast cancer now leading cause of cancer death in African American/Black women

February 11, 2022

a Black woman in a patient gown being prepared by a medical assistant for a breast mammogram

A new report by the American Cancer Society indicates that breast cancer has now surpassed lung cancer as the leading cause of cancer death among Black women. The news is one of the key findings in Cancer Statistics for African American/Black People 2022, published this week.

“African American women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer early when compared with Caucasian women, and unfortunately have three times the mortality rate,” says Sabrina Sahni, M.D., an oncologist at Mayo Clinic in Florida.

While in college, Jessica Florence found a lump on her right breast. The 21-year-old initially did not believe what she found was serious until she was in pain and experiencing other symptoms.

“When I think of breast cancer, I think of, you know, an older woman ― 40 or 60 ― but not 21 or 22,” says Jessica.https://www.youtube.com/embed/XpSCKDvt7KA?feature=oembed&enablejsapi=1&origin=https:%2F%2Fnewsnetwork.mayoclinic.org

“As health care providers, it is prudent that we focus on new efforts to address health disparities, socioeconomic barriers, and access to cancer prevention,” says Sandhya Pruthi, M.D., a physician in the Breast Diagnostic Clinic at Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. “Collectively, we can improve awareness of the disproportionate cancer burden in African American/Black women and implement practice initiatives to close the gap on breast cancer deaths.”

“We need to make sure that African American women have access to the downstream care — better surgery, better radiation oncology, better medical oncology care — to overcome this disparity and give them just as good of an outcome as everybody else in our country,” says Donald Northfelt, M.D. an oncologist at Mayo Clinic in Arizona. “There are many things we need to work on and correct in order to overcome this disparity and bring our African American patients to the same level of success that everyone else is achieving in breast cancer care in the United States today. We are working on that diligently at Mayo Clinic.”