Asheville Radiation Oncologist Dr. Gregg Goldin speaks with the Asheville Citizen-Times on the racial disparities in breast cancer care, explaining how the statistics and timeliness of care can impact outcomes. Read the story from the Asheville Citizen-Times below.
Race plays role in breast cancer risk, deaths
By Karen Chávez
ASHEVILLE - Barbara Allen lived most of her life under a menacing threat – the thought of getting breast cancer.
Then, one day, that ominous fear came true. But when Allen, of Shiloh, developed cancer at 59, she believed she was one of the lucky ones. Maybe it was that nagging fear that prompted her to be more vigilant about her health, but Allen beat the odds facing African-American women with breast cancer.
Although white women develop breast cancer at a higher rate, African-American women are 42 percent more likely to die from the disease. African-American women are diagnosed at a younger age on average, but they are more often diagnosed with a deadlier form of cancer, and at a later stage of the disease.
“I had been getting annual mammograms since my 40s. My great grandmother had breast cancer and one aunt on my mother’s side. Both had mastectomies,” Allen said. “You know your family has it, and in the back of my mind I always feared it.”
In Allen’s case, her cancer was caught early – she found the lump herself and knew something was wrong. She was proactive about getting the best treatment she could. She has escaped the clutches of the disease for the last seven years, and now at 66, she enjoys a “wonderful” life with her husband, Willie, her three sons and three grandchildren.
But many women in the African-American community are not so lucky, even after two decades of the pink-plastered Breast Cancer Awareness month of October, which has been credited with the increase in mammograms – the screening test that most often catches breast cancer.
Numerous medical and academic studies show a stark racial divide when it comes to breast cancer.
Breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in African-American women, with an estimated 30,700 new cases expected this year, according to the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Facts & Figures for African-Americans report for 2016-18. It is the second leading cause of cancer death after lung cancer. An estimated 6,310 deaths from breast cancer are expected to occur in black women in 2016. The projected number of breast cancer cases for all women in the United States this year is 60,290 in situ cases (noninvasive breast cancer) and 231,840 cases of invasive breast cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. An estimated 40,290 women will die from the disease in 2016. Black women die at a higher rate from breast cancer than all other U.S. ethnicities.
A 2015 report from the American Cancer Society found that from 2008 to 2012, breast cancer incidence rates increased 0.4 percent a year in black women and 1.5 percent a year among Asian/Pacific Islanders while they remained stable among whites, Hispanics, and American Indian/Alaska Natives.
This rate for African-American women has been rising over the past decade, said Dr. Gregg Goldin, a radiation oncologist with 21st Century Oncology in Asheville.
“White women get breast cancer at a higher rate, and that’s still true, but African-American women are kind of catching up. Their rate of incidence is increasing at a disproportionate rate,” Goldin said.
Click here to read the full story on the Asheville Citizen-Times website.