Are African American Women More at Risk for Breast Cancer?
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month – and according to the American Cancer Society, over 40,000 women are expected to die from breast cancer this year. The good news is that over time, there has been a decrease in death as a result of breast cancer. However, certain populations are at higher risk of mortality than others. For African American women, chances of surviving breast cancer are much lower than many other populations. There are several potential contributing factors to this.
Someone’s likelihood of surviving cancer is often influenced by:
- Stage and diagnosis
- Proper screening and preventative care
- Socioeconomic status
- Personal and family history
- Accessibility to healthcare
Over the past two years, Tim Sparling, DNP, advanced illness management coordinator at Bronson Battle Creek Cancer Care Center (BBC CCC) served as a content mentor and adjunct faculty member for Stephanneth Adams, a DNP student at Kent State University’s College of Nursing. Stephanneth is currently a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner at Genesis Family Health located in Kansas. The two, among other community partners, collaborated together to implement a culturally sensitive community-based breast health education program for the county. The goal of this program is to increase community involvement related to breast cancer, education, and access to resources for African American women in Calhoun County. This was completed through a variety of community events, education and outreach.
“African American women are disproportionately diagnosed with more aggressive and later stages of cancer,” says Tim. “After seeing the statistics, especially in our own community, I thought ‘What do you do with this information other than call attention to it?’ So we did. We’re always looking for ways to engage with the community, especially where health disparities exist. This collaborative education program was a great way to do this.”
Throughout the program, the BBC CCC offered clinical breast exams and referral services for program participants. If a woman was found to have signs or symptoms of breast cancer, the BBC CCC would help care for her and guide her through the treatment process. Many women shared that the program was very informative as well as educational about breast cancer and how to get assistance. One participant shared, “This awareness and education leads to action, and that can save lives.”
At the Bronson Battle Creek Cancer Care Center, from technology to specially trained staff, there are many resources to help catch cancer early. Also, a wide variety of treatment options are available.
Breast cancer forms when a change in DNA causes normal breast cells to become cancerous. There are many different factors that can affect your risk of developing breast cancer. By being familiar with these factors, you can help prevent and detect early signs of breast cancer. Although this type of cancer is much more common in women, it is important for men to be aware of these risk factors as well. Risk factors can include:
- Family history – Did your mom, grandmother or sister have breast cancer? Since breast cancer forms when DNA changes, family genes can affect your risk level.
- Diet – Maintaining a healthy diet is important. High-fat and carbohydrate-rich diets can lead to being overweight which can increase your risk.
- How much you exercise - As with eating healthy, regular exercise can help maintain a healthy weight, decreasing your risk.
- Race – Breast cancer is typically more common in white and African American women, and the survival rate for African American women is much lower.
All women ages 40 and above should receive regular breast cancer screenings; however, it is helpful to be aware of certain signs and symptoms when performing monthly self-exams. What are the signs or symptoms of breast cancer?
- Swelling of the breast (all or part of it)
- Skin irritation or dimpling
- Breast or nipple pain
- Nipple retraction (turning inward)
- Redness or thickening of the nipple or breast skin
- Nipple discharge (other than breast milk)
Source: American Cancer Society
To learn more about breast cancer services at the Bronson Battle Creek Cancer Care Center, visit bronsonhealth.com/cancer.
This community collaborative education program led by Stephanneth Adams, DNP(c), MSN, WHNP-BC, was made possible by the support of several Bronson providers -
Adjunct on-site clinical breast exam and referral services:
- Tim Sparling, DNP
- Nidhi Mishra, MD
- Niyati Bhagwati, MD
- Susan Smith, ANP
- Randy Mudge, MD
- Jasmine Oliver, MD
- Lindsay Wriston, MD
Educational lecture on mammography:
- Christina Jacobs, MD
- Jenny Wang, DO
- Sue Swank, RN
- Jennifer Scheppel, RN
- Robinette Smith, RN