Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women. A diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer can be life-altering as you try to navigate appointments, tests, and treatments.

The color of the skin makes it more difficult for people. Black women are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer later in life. It is not clear why this is happening.

There are likely more than one factor. Black women are more likely to experience barriers to healthcare.

“Black women are more likely to experience delays in getting follow-up care after an abnormal screening, because of the healthcare system that doesn’t meet the needs of people of color.”

Black women are more likely to be diagnosed with a type of breast cancer known as triple-negative. This type of breast cancer grows faster and is harder to treat compared to other types of breast cancer.

Black women need changes to improve their care.

There are things that you can do if you are a black person with breast cancer. There are many things that need to change in order to improve cancer treatment in Black people.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women. Metastatic breast cancer is when cancer cells from the breast spread to other parts of the body.

Metastatic breast cancer is also known as stage 4 breast cancer. It’s an advanced stage of cancer. Breast cancer is most likely to spread to the lungs, liver, and bones, but it may spread to other places in the body.

Radiation, chemotherapy, or targeted therapies are some of the treatments for breast cancer that have spread. In some cases, surgery is recommended.

Treatments may help people with cancer live longer.

The number of black and white women with breast cancer is the same. There are differences in the details when we look more closely.

Black women are more likely to be diagnosed with advanced breast cancer. They also tend to be younger and have a higher death rate.

There are different types of cancer. After a breast cancer diagnosis, cancer cells can be tested to find out more. Testing looks for hormones and a molecule called HER2. Testing can help guide treatment decisions.

Triple-negative breast cancer is a type of breast cancer. The cancer cells are negative in the other tests.

Black women are twice as likely as non-Hispanic white women to be diagnosed with TNBC. It’s a faster-growing type of cancer, and it’s more likely to be found after it has already spread to other parts of the body.

The average age of diagnosis in Black women is younger than in white women. Black women are more likely to develop breast cancer under the age of 45.

The rates of breast cancer in white women are stable while rates continue to rise in Black women. In women ages 60 to 84 years old, white women actually have higher rates of breast cancer.

Despite this, the death rates for Black women in this group are still higher than for white women. Overall, there’s a 41% higher rate of death from breast cancer in Black women.

Dr. Teresa Hagan Thomas is an assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing. She’s passionate about supporting women with advanced breast or gynecologic cancers to become their own advocates.

The reasons for the disparity in breast cancer screening and treatment for Black women are still being discovered.

Black women are more likely to be un- or underinsured, and the financial burden of cancer care, and transportation issues are related to social determinants of health.

There are better outcomes when breast cancer is found early. Regular mammograms are required for early detection. A mammogram is an X-ray that shows the breast tissue to look for any changes.

Breast cancer rarely has any symptoms, so imaging is important to find cancer early. Routine mammograms can reduce death rates from breast cancer by up to 40%.

Income level and lack of health insurance are often barriers to getting a mammogram. In a survey of about 9,000 women, 40% agreed that cost was a barrier for them to getting a mammogram. As expected, the cost was more likely to be a factor in women without health insurance.

Thomas says that access to free or discounted mammograms can help women be diagnosed earlier when the cancer is more treatable or even curable.

Data from 2020 shows that 20% of Black people live below the poverty line in the United States. This is compared to an 8% poverty rate for white and Asian people in the United States.

Women with lower incomes are more likely to be diagnosed with later stages of breast cancer. This may be due to delays in accessing care.

Numbers from 2019 show that 10% of Black people in the United States don’t have health insurance. Among white people in the United States, about 6% are uninsured.

Lack of access to quality healthcare can delay a diagnosis of breast cancer. Research shows that Black and other marginalized patients get less time with healthcare professionals.

Communication is worse between medical professionals and Patients of Color and the care is often of lower quality. This is true even when things like insurance status, income, and disease severity are similar between racial groups.

“Many Black people in the United States don’t trust the healthcare system due to a long history and current practices.”

Black women with breast cancer report a higher level of medical mistrust than white women. Greater mistrust of healthcare is associated with worse mental and physical health.

A breast cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming. Thomas suggests communicating with loved ones. Stay connected to those who support you and let them help you when you need it.

It is possible to connect with organizations such as the Komen Foundation.

Thomas says that knowing someone else has gone through the same thing can be helpful. You can learn from their experience and share your ideas.

Learning about your cancer type and its treatment can help you feel more confident at appointments. Thomas recommends the American Cancer Society.

Thomas says that the information can help you understand the process.

Thomas emphasizes the importance of good relationships.

“A strong relationship with your healthcare professional can help make sure they understand you. Make sure your concerns are addressed and ask for clarification if you don’t understand what they’re saying.”

If you are feeling overwhelmed, medical appointments can be difficult. Bringing a friend or family member with you to appointments will give you more support.

Thomas says that following a healthy lifestyle before and after a diagnosis is important. If a woman is diagnosed with cancer, it is possible to prevent it by staying healthy, eating healthy, and getting physical activity.

It is unfair to put it on Black women to fix this problem. There are deeper issues that have created the disparity.

Thomas says that the care Black women receive needs to be improved. Black women say that their pain and symptoms are not taken seriously by their doctors.

If we want to ensure equal access and high quality care for everyone, we need to confront the following issues.

  • Address medical mistrust: There are reasons why racialized patients are not always comfortable seeking healthcare. All healthcare professionals need to be aware of the barriers that patients may face and work to make care more accessible for all.
  • Greater diversity in healthcare: Black people are underrepresented in healthcare professions. Changes need to happen at all levels of education to support more Black people to enter careers in healthcare.
  • Improve access to health insurance: Although improvements have been made, there are still many people who are underinsured. The cost of healthcare can prevent people from getting the care they need.

There’s an association between breastfeeding and lower rates of triple-negative breast cancer. Black women in the United States have lower rates of breastfeeding compared to other groups.

There are several factors that affect breastfeeding rates. Many Black communities have a lack of breastfeeding support.

Studies also show that Black babies are more likely to be given formula in hospitals, and in-hospital formula introduction is associated with lower rates of breastfeeding.

There are ways to support Black mothers to feed their babies.

  • Before and after birth there are peer support groups.
  • There is breastfeeding support and education in the hospital.
  • Check-ins with breastfeeding experts.

Black women are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer. There are many factors that contribute to the numbers.

Income and insurance make breast cancer less likely. Breast cancer detection improves survival.

People may not get the care they need because of racism. There are things that Black women can do to advocate for themselves.

Being your own self-advocate is hard when you are going through treatment for cancer, says Thomas.

The main goal is to make sure that your values, needs, and priorities are clear to you and those that support you. Make sure your team is behind you when you have an issue or concern.