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  • Writer's pictureRe'Neisha Lee, MPH

Painting the Picture Pink: A Comprehensive Look at Breast Cancer Deaths Among Black Women

Breast Cancer, but Make It Renaissance

Beyoncé is the highest-paid performer of 2023, packing out the Mercedes-Benz Stadium during all three sold-out Renaissance World Tours (RWT) in Atlanta. This stadium held 155,000 fans each night, allowing 465,000 fans to witness the international star perform. Statistically, 13% of her audience will be diagnosed with breast cancer.

Statistically speaking, among one night of Atlanta RWT concertgoers, 19,375 will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Over the 3-day tour run, that number would increase to 58,125 people.

The level of impact that Beyoncé curated for people at the Mercedes-Benz stadium is a grim, yet a statstically precise comparison to the impact that breast cancer has on women daily. Unfortunately, breast cancer does not just stay behind stadium doors once the show is over; it follows you throughout life. With the knowledge of one in eight women being diagnosed with breast cancer, how could you change your lifestyle habits to lessen the hardship breast cancer could potentially have on you?

Breast cancer is very common in America. Specifically, 13% of the population in the U.S. will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. One in eight women are diagnosed with breast cancer annually, and by the end of 2023, it is estimated that 30% of all new female cancer diagnoses will be breast cancer. Despite the universal decline in mortality rates, there has been a significant rise in the death of breast cancer amongst African-American women. Black women specifically have been dying of breast cancer at higher rates than Caucasian women. Social, economic, and environmental differences have been linked to play a significant role in the outcome of diagnoses, so much so that Black women are two times more likely to succumb to breast cancer.

The Pink Picture

Black women are at higher risk than others for most illnesses, so hearing how Black women are disproportionately impacted by breast cancer is, unfortunately, not surprising; however, with them leading breast cancer death rates, why are Black women, not the "face" of receiving quality care and support?

History of Breast Cancer

Dating back to 3,000-2,500 B.C., initial records and illustrations showed proof of authentic accounts of breast cancer. It was not until the 13th century that unique instruments were accepted to aid in rapidly removing breast tumors. By the 18th century, there was an opportunity to revisit the origins of breast cancer. Many theories fed into what could cause breast cancer, including milk, trauma, personality type, exposure to air, and infection. By the middle of the 19th century, strict rules for non-violation of the tumor area precluded a preoperative biopsy to confirm whether the patient had cancer at all, which would give a clinical diagnosis before conducting the surgery. Surgery remains at the heart of management in the multimodality of breast cancer due to its infliction on the body.

Breast cancer is a disease in which cells in the breast(s) grow  and divide uncontrollably, creating a mass of tissue called tumors. Unlike other cancers, breast cancer not only invades and multiplies in the target area of the breast but can also travel to other parts of the body, causing new tumors to form. It is said that surgery remains at the heart of management in a multimodality setting, balancing cure and restoration for a breast cancer survivor. If this is the standard doctors and researchers attest to, why are Black women still 40% more likely to die of breast cancer?

Impact of Breast Cancer on Black Women

Many factors contribute to breast cancer's disproportionate impact on Black women. Black women are more likely to experience co-morbidities due to breast cancer than White women, which may account for half of the Black-White survivor disparity. Comorbidity is associated with worse health outcomes, more complex management, and increased healthcare costs. Black women are more susceptible to dying from breast cancer due to a lack of health care management and multiple coexisting diseases. Black women burdening their bodies with various illnesses and conditions have a higher rate of tragic breast cancer outcomes.

Given we know the implications of co-morbidities on Black women, screening and testing should be made readily available. However, despite these known facts, Black women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer. Our conversations should not only discuss the importance of screening and testing but also how we can change our everyday lifestyle to alter the trajectory of these statistics.

Black women will have a higher age-specific diagnosis of breast cancer, with a 10% chance of being diagnosed by age 40 compared to 5% of their white counterparts. Our lifestyles will play a significant role in these diagnoses. Here at Healthcare Equity Solutions (HCES), we want you to create a healthy lifestyle, known as a Purposely Pink Lifestyle; this entails:

  1. Being aware of your genetic history;

  2. Being proactive about fitness, nutrition, and beauty practices; and

  3. Being in tune with yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally.

There is no cure for breast cancer, but early detection and a healthy lifestyle are essential tools to combat the cancer. Below are some simple lifestyle changes you can make:

  1. Do not smoke.

  2. Eat right and limit or avoid highly processed foods.

  3. Avoid stress through exercise.

  4. Avoid large amounts of alcohol.

  5. Practice sun safety.

  6. Use safe cosmetics-verified, non-toxic, Black-owned beauty products. If you need some guidance, check out the top non-toxic Black-owned beauty brands here!

Staying on top of routine health screenings and mammogram testing for your specified age group can also be crucial in detecting and treating cancer before it is too big. Black women experience many barriers when it comes to receiving medical care. Organizations like Nia create personalized breast health resources in just a few minutes to inform you of your breast health in one simple chat. The CDC's National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP) also provides breast and cervical cancer screenings and diagnostic services to women who have low incomes and are uninsured or underinsured. Visit their website to determine your eligibility for free or low-cost screening in your state.

Stay Connected with the Community the Painted Pink Way

Bringing awareness to breast health in the black community is essential. Organizations like Painted Pink, Inc., are dedicated to educating millennials on their breast health in a way that is for us and by us. Since its inception in 2013, Painted Pink has raised over $100,000 in funds to create care kits and resources for newly diagnosed young breast cancer warriors. Painted Pink also has partnerships at hospitals, such as Piedmont Hospital and Grady Health in Atlanta, Georgia, to bring healthcare access through care kits and resources for newly diagnosed patients. HCES supports the four pillars Painted Pink stands by and supports every effort it implements to bring awareness to breast health in the Black community.

If you are in the Atlanta area, join Painted Pink for their 10th Annual Brunch celebrating 10 Years of Hope and 10 Years of Impact on Sunday, October 22, 2023, from 11 AM – 2 PM. Be part of an event that celebrates life, triumph, and unity in the face of adversity while honoring millennial breast cancer survivors, challenging misconceptions, and standing together. Reserve your spot to participate in an extraordinary day that promises inspiration, empowerment, and a renaissance of hope. Be sure to purchase your tickets at Painted Pink Brunch 2023. We'll be there, and hope that you are, too!

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