Disparities run rampant in health care spaces. According to the CDC, Black women are three times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than White women. Multiple factors contribute to these disparities, such as variation in quality healthcare, underlying chronic conditions, structural racism, and implicit bias. Social determinants of health have historically prevented many people from racial and ethnic minority groups from having fair opportunities for economic, physical, and emotional health.
These disparities are also prominent when it comes to breast cancer. Here are some glaring facts (For the Breast of Us):
- African-American are on average, 40% more likely to die of the disease than white women with breast cancer.
- African-American women are more likely than women of other races to develop triple negative breast cancer, which is associated with poorer short-term prognosis.
- Hispanic women are more likely than non-Hispanic white women to be diagnosed with tumors that are larger and are hormone receptor-negative, both of which are more difficult to treat.
- Asian/Pacific Islander women are seeing their breast cancer rates increase.
- When it comes to clinical trials, Black women represent only 6.2% of participants, Hispanic women only 2.2% and Asian/Pacific Islander women only 3.3%.
In 2020, 12-time Grammy-nominated singer Jazmine Sullivan shared that her mother had been diagnosed with Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC). IBC presents differently than other forms of breast cancer, often not causing a lump, meaning it is harder to diagnose. This causes most diagnoses to be an advanced stage, generally stage III. IBC is also more aggressive, spreading faster than other types of breast cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, African-American women appear to develop IBC more often than white women. In January 2021, Jazmine announced that her mother was completing her final round of chemotherapy.
As I did my morning routine and watched Good Morning America, Jazmine was featured discussing her new mission to help Black women in the fight against breast cancer. Partnering with multinational pharmaceutical company Novartis, Jazmine is a spokesperson for their More than Just Words campaign. Novartis has committed to addressing racial disparities in breast cancer screening, treatment, and care.
I am pleased to see the big-name pharmaceutical companies who have the access and reach to change outcomes and care for Black women faced with breast cancer, not just doing the work, but partnering with organizations who have been boots on the ground advocating and making change. Let’s hope that that is just the beginning of companies taking a stand and helping to decrease and remove altogether, the disparities in breast cancer care.