Black Women And Metastatic Breast Cancer
Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed type of cancer in women (2). Usually, white women have a higher percentage of the diagnosis, but studies revealed that black women are diagnosed more at the advanced stage of breast cancer. According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, black women are also prone to an aggressive presentation of cancer, including metastatic breast cancer, at younger ages (3).
The exact cause of this aggressive presentation is not accurately known. Still, there have been some risk factors as to why this is the case have been identified, such as the poor health-seeking behavior of some women and inadequate health facilities that may cause a delay in assessing health needs even at earlier presentation. In addition, black women are also at higher risk of being diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer, which is characterized by a faster growth rate and does not respond to treatment easily.
If you are a black woman with breast cancer or need information about breast cancer metastasis in black women, this article is set to answer many of your questions (2). But always contact your health care professional for advice and diagnosis.
What Is Metastatic Breast Cancer?
Metastatic breast cancer simply refers to cancer that has spread from its primary location, which is the breast, to another part(s) of the body. Metastatic breast cancer is the advanced stage of breast cancer.
The cancer cells may spread to other areas of the body, such as:
The Bones: manifesting as joint pain, back pain
The brain: manifesting as irrational behaviors, headaches, and lots more
The lungs: causing cough, blood in sputum, and chest pain
Liver: which may manifest as abdominal pain and yellowness of the eyes.
The fact the cancer cells from the breast spread to other areas does not change the fact that they are originally breast cancer cells, and the treatment options will still follow suit for breast cancer (5).
Reasons Why Metastatic Breast Cancer Is Common Among Black Women
The most common cancer among black women is breast cancer. Studies reveal that black women are at increased risk of living with co-morbid and chronic conditions that are capable of predisposing them to breast cancer. Such as:
Cardiovascular diseases, like hypertensive heart disease.
Poor breastfeeding practice also predisposes black women to breast cancer, the choice to breastfeed exclusively is known to be a protective factor against breast cancer, especially in younger women.
Stress has also been recorded to predispose women to breast cancer. It can affect the strength of the cancerous cells causing a more aggressive cancer growth, advanced cancer stage presentation, and reduced quality of life.
Exposure to environmental toxins in some women increases the chance of metastatic breast cancer.
Beauty products: A good number of black women adore using chemicals on their skin, hair, and nails, which has been investigated to contribute to the high cancer rate and metastasis in them.
Poor health-seeking behavior among black women also increases the high rate of metastatic breast cancer.
Poor health infrastructure (1).
What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Breast Cancer In Black Women
Individuals have different ways of responding to cancerous cells in the body. But, there are similar symptoms of breast cancer, and these are:
Presence of a lump in the breast
Change in skin appearance to look like orange peel
Plus or minus breast pain
Discharge from the nipple
Swelling of the associated lymph nodes, especially the armpits
If the cancer type is inflammatory breast cancer, it may not present typically, and symptoms are said to be rapid within three to six months (4).
Most often than not, the symptoms of metastatic breast cancer are based on the location the cancer cells spread to, and these common areas are the bones, brain, lungs, and liver. These symptoms include Joint pain, cough, nausea, and vomiting, yellowness of the eyes, headaches, dizziness, anorexia, weight loss. Others are difficulty in breathing, confusion, seizure, and generalized body weakness (1).
Reasons Why Black Women With Breast Cancer Present Late
Several reasons explain why black women with breast cancer present late with metastasis. Some of them are
Low socioeconomic status
Low socioeconomic status has to do with the poverty of individual black women and poor health facilities. According to a study carried out by the “United States Census Bureau,” black Americans have up to a 19percent poverty rate compared to whites.
Living in poverty, causing an inability to assess good health care, is one of the major reasons why black women present late with metastasis, which will later result in a high mortality rate in black women with breast cancer. Also, people living in poverty hardly have access to good health care or can afford the fee to see a specialist in time (3).
Ignorance about breast cancer and its dangers
Some black women have poor health education about the signs of breast cancer and what to do. Most women see the lump in their breast and nurse it expecting it to resolve on its own unknown to them that it is a cancerous lump. Poor knowledge about how family history can make a woman more susceptible to breast cancer makes some women negligent about screening, thereby exacerbating late detection (3).
Poverty among blacks not only prevents their access to health insurance but also predisposes them to a lifestyle that can negatively affect them. Poor eating habits, for instance, can predispose a woman to obesity, and unfortunately, obesity is a risk factor for breast cancer (3).
Prognosis Of Metastatic Breast Cancer In Black Women
Studies have revealed that black women have a lower rate of survival (71.1percent) compared to white women (82.4percent). Although it can be treated when metastasis occurs, it can further decrease the survival rate by another five years. According to a study conducted by the American Cancer Society, the five years survival rate in metastatic breast cancer is about twenty-nine percent (1).
How To Avoid Late Presentation In Black Women With Breast Cancer
Currently, there are no proven methods to prevent breast cancer metastasis. Studies are currently ongoing on how to prevent cancers from metastasizing (5), but below are tips to help control the rate of breast cancer metastasis among black women:
Health education about breast cancer
Public enlightenment on the early signs of breast cancer and how to practice self-breast examination
Knowledge of family history
Eat healthily and stay safe (3).