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What Black Women Need to Know About Breast Cancer

  • Category: Cancer, Women's Health
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Dr. Everett Bonner, Surgical Breast Oncologist
What Black Women Need to Know About Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is now the leading cause of cancer death in Black women, according to a new report by the American Cancer Society. The report is troubling because breast cancer is extremely treatable, between today’s better therapies and the emphasis on early detection.

The report finds that Black women are 41% more likely to die from breast cancer compared to white women, despite having a lower risk of being diagnosed with the disease. This is in large part because Black women are more likely to be diagnosed at a later stage, when it’s harder to treat. In addition, they are at higher risk for triple-negative breast cancer, which is the most aggressive type of breast cancer that tends to occur at younger ages.

Education about prevention and early detection is effective, but there is still some confusion surrounding the recommended age and frequency for mammograms, mainly because there are numerous groups -that put out recommendations. Some of them are based on old data, but we know what we’re seeing locally and right now.

East Baton Rouge Parish has the second highest number of new breast cancer cases annually in the state, ranking just below Jefferson Parish. The bottom line: we recommend mammograms for women ages 40 and up, potentially earlier if there is a family history.

In addition to inconsistent messaging, other barriers to mammography screening may include:

  • Lack of transportation to a mammography center
  • Low income or worry about cost
  • Lack of a usual health care provider that recommends a mammogram
  • Lack of child care or elder care
  • Lack of sick leave or unable to miss work
  • Fear of bad news or pain from the mammogram

Much work has been done to improve community outreach and make mammograms more accessible. But access to high-quality care after the mammogram is still a barrier for many, for example, the options for surgery, radiation or medical oncology available when an abnormal mammogram requires follow-up.

The best action women can take is to know their risk and have a conversation with a healthcare provider about it. Here are the main risk factors to keep in mind:

  • Family history of breast cancer or ovarian cancer
  • Patients who are over 50.
  • Those with genetic mutations such as BRCA1 and BRCA2
  • Patients who started a menstrual cycle before the age of 12 and started menopause after 55
  • Patients with dense breasts
  • Those with a personal history of breast cancer or non-cancerous breast diseases.
  • Previous treatment using radiation therapy
  • Obesity after menopause
  • Patients taking hormones for more than five years

Last year, Baton Rouge General opened a High-Risk Breast Clinic at its Mid City campus, providing specialized care to women at risk for developing breast disease and who are underinsured or uninsured.

From screenings and prevention to surgical intervention, the clinic is led by Dr. Everett Bonner, surgical breast oncologist. Dr. Bonner holds a fellowship in Surgical Breast Oncology from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, the world’s oldest and largest private cancer center. For more information, call (225) 381-6620 or click here.

To schedule a mammogram at one of our locations, click here or call (225) 763-4631.

Everett J. Bonner

Everett J. Bonner, Jr., MD
High-Risk Breast Clinic

Phone: (225) 381-6620