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Breast Cancer Awareness Month And Black People: What We Need To Know


By Cherranda Smith

Photo: Getty Images

The annual campaign uses the month’s 31 days to take a moment and remember those we’ve lost, promote medical exams and prevention, and raise awareness about the disease, as well as raise funds for research.

As part of that raising awareness, the Black Information Network is taking a closer look at breast cancer’s effect on our communities, and resources that specifically center our experiences.

Breast cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths among American men and women. For Black women, the rate of incidence has increased in the last 40 years, breaking away from lower rates last seen in 1975, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The trend is seen especially among Black women between the ages of 60 and 79, though the age of diagnosis for Black women is typically lower than white women.

While Black women are less likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer, they are more likely to die from breast cancer than white women, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins Medical School. A 2016 CDC report found that between 2000-2014, mortality rates among Black women with breast cancer were higher than white women, despite having a lower incidence rate.

Black women are also more likely to be diagnosed with more aggressive types of breast cancer, researchers say in part due to combination of biological, social and economic factors, including stress. These types of cancer make treatment options more limited.

Resources for Us

There are several organizations dedicated to raising awareness, providing peer support, and more for Black people diagnosed with breast cancer. Through their work, many of the organizations sound the alarm on trends of this disease and more that impact our communities at higher or more aggressive rates while providing resources for those who’ve been diagnosed.

Learn more about these organizations below.

African American Breast Cancer Alliance, Inc.

Found in 1990, the AABCA, is a Minnesota-based nonprofit that seeks to build networks and raise awareness for Black people who’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer.

Sisters Network, Inc.

Founded in 1994, the Sisters Network, Inc. is a survivorship organization that puts survivors in community, providing financial assistance and workshops.

Black Women’s Health Imperative

The Black Women’s Health Imperative is an organization dedicated to promoting health and wellness of Black women and girls. In addition to breast cancer, the org works to raise awareness about sick cell, and other medical conditions that directly and disproportionately impact Black women and girls.

Sisters By Choice

Sisters By Choice is an educational, support organization for Black women diagnosed with breast cancer. The organization was founded in 1989 by Dr. Rogsbert F. Phillips-Reed, a pioneering Atlanta-based breast surgeon.

Smith Center for Healing and Arts

The Smith Center for Healing and Arts is a nonprofit that uses and promotes healing practices for greater health and wellness outcomes. The Center is a leader in using the arts to promote healing and offers several cancer programs.


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