Death from breast cancer disproportionately affects black women

Recent data for five-year breast cancer survival rates highlights the racial disparity.
Published: Oct. 18, 2022 at 6:57 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Drastic improvements have been made in surviving cancer. In the last three decades, a study shows that the death rate from breast cancer has declined by nearly 43%, equaling nearly 460,000 fewer breast cancer deaths during that time.

However, while black women have a lower incidence rate of breast cancer, the death rate is 40% higher in black women overall.

Lincoln pastor Janet Goodman Banks was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008. She had a lumpectomy, six rounds of chemo, and about 34 rounds of radiation.

“Back in the day, it was a death sentence back when my great aunt, you know, acquired it. She didn’t have the technology and the medication that we have now,” Goodman Banks said. “So I’m just really grateful for how far in advance the medicine has come.”

While Goodman Banks’ diagnosis was 13 years ago, the American Cancer Society estimated that more than 36,000 cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in black women in 2022. Also in 2022, it’s estimated that 6,800 black women will die from breast cancer.

“It’s pretty scary. It’s real scary. Especially with the advancements that we have now. It’s still a disparity,” Goodman Banks said, “And it’s one that we need to close the gap on.”

Recent data for five-year breast cancer survival rates highlights the racial disparity. Black women have an 82% chance of survival in comparison with 92% for white women.

“I believe that they have access to mammograms faster than the black community. And that’s something that you know, me as a community advocate, nursing student I try to encourage people to get those mammograms Because prevention is the key,” Goodman Banks said.

Goodman Banks is leading the charge in educating and advocating for black women in Lincoln. She talks women through their new diagnoses, helps them create questions for doctors, and will even go to appointments with them.

“I want to see more survival rates in the black community regarding breast cancer,” Goodman Banks said. “I want to see that disparity go down.”

The racial disparities carry over to men diagnosed with breast cancer as well. Black men have a higher incidence rate than white men of all kinds of breast cancer subtypes, including Triple Negative Breast Cancer, an aggressive form.