Black women in Mississippi with breast cancer are more than 60 percent more likely to die of the disease than their white counterparts, according to a recent article from Pew Charitable Trusts.
Although this disparity is higher in Mississippi and Louisiana than anywhere else in the country, it exists nationwide, where black women are 40 percent more likely to die of breast cancer than white women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And it exists despite the fact that the CDC reports black and white women get breast cancer at about the same rate.
The reasons for this disparity are myriad and likely familiar to anyone who has examined maternal mortality, another area where black women are overrepresented compared to white women. The Pew article describes what it calls a “perfect storm of scientific and social forces.”
First, treatments for breast cancer in black women are not yet as effective as treatments for white women. This is because researchers have yet to develop advanced treatments for the aggressive tumors black women are more likely to get and because recent advancements in cancer therapies for other tumors have yet to be proven effective in minorities, partly because clinical trials often lack diversity.
But there is also the issue of racism, and black women more frequently feel cast aside by the health care system, where doctors, nurses and support groups rarely look like them, according to the article. Black women are also more likely to lack access to jobs, transit and health insurance. This marginalization of black women is especially prevalent in the South.
“The way we are treated makes us feel shameful or unimportant,” said Alisha Cornell, who worked as a registered nurse in North Carolina, in the story.
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