LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Breast cancer affects more than 3.8 million women but Black women have the odds stacked against them. Alarmingly, they are more likely to die from the disease than any other group.
While Black and white women get breast cancer at about the same rates, Black women are 40% more likely to die from breast cancer and are also more likely to be diagnosed before age 40 when annual screenings typically start.
Dr. Joana Folayan is an OB-GYN in Las Vegas. She’s confident there are at least two main reasons for the disparity. The first is Black women’s access to healthcare.
“Lack of access to medicine, meaning they can’t afford the medical care they don’t have insurance,” Folayan said. “It’s expensive to get a mammogram.”
The second — and maybe even bigger obstacle — is a mistrust of the medical profession.
“To let them know that we want to work with them. We are like them. Basically, to teach them we are aware of what happened in the past and were going to make sure that does not happen again,” she said.
Dr. Folayan is referring to the documented experiments on African Americans in the days of slavery.
“These are things that occurred but would never ever happen in his day in age,” she adds.
Black women also tend to receive a later diagnosis, often with more aggressive types of breast cancers. So, annual screenings are vital. Folayan also urges her patients to know their bodies.
“I think that women should definitely concentrate on doing their breast self-exams. I think they should do it every month a week after their menses,” she said.
Dr. Folyan knows first-hand the importance of early detection and treatment. She’s a breast cancer survivor herself.