By Erica Rose
Since October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I thought I would do a little research into survival rates. As it turns out, thanks to raised awareness, survival rates have increased among women in America. Unfortunately, according to Imaginis’ Women Health Resource the survival rates are not the same across all demographics, and in fact, the rate of survival among African American women is lowest of all women.
According to the website, incidences of cancer are reported at a higher rate among Caucasian women than African American Women (132.5 out 100,000 Caucasian women versus 118.3 out of 100,000 African American women). However the death rate from this disease for African American women is 33.8 out of 100,000 as opposed to 25 out of 100,000 Caucasian women. This means that 28% of African American women reported to be suffering from breast cancer die. Why is that? The same source reports that Black women are diagnosed with later stages of breast cancer. The fact that Black women have the lowest rate of incidences of breast cancer, but the highest death rate suggests to me that we (and yes, I am a Black woman) are not being screened for this disease until it’s too late. Why not?
One reason may be a lack of health insurance and money. But self-breast exams are free. However, there have been many reports that self-examination is not the best method of screening only because lumps are not discovered as quickly as other screenings such as mammograms. But since most women don’t start getting mammograms till they are 40, self-exams are still the best way to stay healthy and they can be an easy way to check yourself if you can’t get to a doctor. Plus, performing a monthly breast exam on yourself is better than doing nothing at all. Also, there are resources available for all women, such as the Susan G. Komen for the Cure, that host Breast Cancer Awareness Fairs and conferences that provide free screenings for breast cancer.
It is easy as women to get wrapped up in all of our responsibilities. But we have to remember that we have to find balance in our lives. And an important part of the balance includes taking care of our health. I am writing this blog to simply say to all women that we should not allow caring for loved ones, our jobs, or our education get in the way of caring for ourselves. If we do not take care of us first, then we cannot care for others. Getting screened or screening ourselves for breast cancer is one way to do that, so let’s get it done.