African American Women
You gain strength, courage
and confidence by every experience in which
you must stop and look fear in the face.
You must do the thing you think you cannot
— Maya Angelou
Breast cancer affects people
of all racial and ethnic backgrounds, but
differences exist in how women of different
ethnic groups are diagnosed with breast cancer
and how well they survive it.
What is the
risk of breast cancer for African American
Breast cancer is the most common
form of cancer in African American women,
and the second leading cause of cancer
deaths among African American women (lung
cancer is the first).
women are more likely than white women
to get breast cancer between age 24 and
40. However, they are less likely than
white women to get breast cancer after
In addition, African American
women are more likely than white women
to die from breast cancer. In fact, African
American women have the highest death rate
from breast cancer of any ethnic group.
In general, a lack of health
insurance is related to lower survival among
breast cancer patients. Also, breast cancer
patients with lower incomes are more likely
to be diagnosed with an advanced stage of
breast cancer and to have lower survival
rates at five years than higher-income patients.
For example, low-income African American
women experience lower survival than higher-income
African American women.
The presence of additional
illnesses, unequal access to medical care,
and differences in treatment may contribute
to the differences in survival between
lower- and higher-income breast cancer
patients, and African Americans and
whites (American Cancer Society Facts & Figures,
2003). Recent studies suggest that
breast cancer may be biologically
different in African American women
compared to other groups of women.
special challenges do African American
When African American women are
treated, they may be less likely than
white women to receive state-of-the-art
diagnosis and treatment for breast cancer.
This may be influenced by the standard
of care in the hospitals where they are
treated (smaller hospitals and clinics
versus large hospitals and cancer centers).
American women are less likely than white
women to get a mammogram because of problems
with access to them and because healthcare
providers are less likely to refer African
American women for mammograms. Studies
have found that when African American
and white women use mammography equally,
breast cancer is diagnosed in them at
Compounding these problems
is that because of a past history of discrimination
and cultural issues, some African American
women may mistrust the healthcare system.
can African American women do?
- If you are age 40
or above, get regular mammograms and breast
exams (talk to your health care provider
about how often). Spread the word to
women you know to do the same. Breast cancer
that is detected early is usually more
- If you have been diagnosed
with breast cancer, think about seeking
treatment from one of the three Comprehensive Cancer Centers
in North Carolina or
from another large cancer center. (See
our listing of North
Carolina Hospitals and Cancer Centers).
- If you
need help paying for mammograms or treatment,
and Other Assistance.
- Be an advocate for your
health care. If you have been diagnosed
with breast cancer, become informed about your diagnosis, treatment,
and long-term follow-up
care. Participate in making decisions about your care. Use
this Resource Directory
to help you learn more about your options and to find additional
resources for more
- Communicate as much and
as openly as possible with
your healthcare providers. If you are not comfortable talking openly
with a provider,
look for another in whom you can trust.
- Think about attending a
support group for African American
women or joining an African American breast cancer advocacy organization
below). Or consider starting your own support
For coping with some of the
cosmetic side-effects of breast
cancer treatment, such as hair
loss, you may want to look
for individuals who have experience
working with African American hair
and skin. Many “Look Good…Feel Better” Programs
(available at many hospitals
and cancer centers in North
Carolina; ask your healthcare
provider) have trained cosmetologists
and hair stylists who may
be able to help.
several resources listed
in Suppliers of Breast
Cancer Products and Services on
page 217 that offer breast
prostheses and wigs designed
for African American women.
Breast Cancer Support Groups
in North Carolina for African American
If you know of other African American support
groups in North Carolina, or if you are forming
one yourself, please let us know at 800.514.4860
Women of Color Breast Cancer Support Group
Has various topics of interest to group members;
call for meeting time and place.
Contact: Dondi Alston at 336.227.9977 or
Faith in Action Cancer Support Group
Meets 2nd & 4th Thursday at 6:00 pm.
Call for location.
Contact: Armatha Shular at 910.646.4898
Triangle Area Breast Cancer Support Group
Call for more information. Also called the
Triangle Area African American Support Group.
Contact: Pearl Shelby at 919.682.3316 or
Sisters Network Breast Cancer Support Group
Meets third Thursday of the month; call for
time and location.
Contact: Valarie Worthy 919.419.8284 or email@example.com
YWCA Sister Speak!
1201 Glade Street, Winston-Salem, NC 27101
Call for more information. Local support
group for African Americans with breast cancer.
Contact: Betty Meadows at 336.722.5138, ext.
Sisters Network of the Piedmont
Buddy Kemp Caring House
242 Colonial Avenue, Charlotte, NC 28207
Meets third Thursday of the month at 6:30
Call to confirm.
Contact: Tracy Cook-Brewton at 704.865.2227
Support a Sister
Rex Cancer Center
4420 Lake Boone Trail, Raleigh, NC 27607
Meets first Tuesday of the month at 6:00
Call for room location.
Contact: Latanja Williams at 919.784.6247
African American Breast Cancer Alliance
Founded by African American women who have
had breast cancer. Call to request brochure, “Being
There!” about breast health for African
Black Women’s Health
(formerly the National Black Women’s
An African American health education, research
and advocacy organization that has health
information, products and programs for African
Breast Cancer Resource Committee
Mission is to reduce incidence and mortality
from breast cancer among African American
women, particularly for those who have little
or no access to adequate healthcare and treatment.
Celebrating Life: African American Women
About Breast Cancer
Promotes breast cancer awareness and information
for African American women and women of color.
Contact to order “Celebrating Life:
African American Women Speak Out About Breast
Educate Our Women (Raleigh, NC)
Assists low-income, uninsured African American
and Latino women in Wake County with mammograms.
Provides education about breast health through
Lay Health Advisors. Call for details and
eligibility requirements. (2006 Komen NC
Triangle Affiliate Grantee)
Intercultural Cancer Council
Supports research to eliminate the unequal
burden of cancer among racial and ethnic
minorities and medically underserved populations
in the United States. Has fact sheets on
African Americans and cancer.
Living Beyond Breast Cancer (LBBC)
610.645.4567 or 888.753.LBBC (5222)
Addresses post-treatment needs of women with
breast cancer through educational programs,
newsletters, and a toll-free survivor’s
helpline. Call to order the booklet: “Getting
Connected: For African Americans Living Beyond
Office of Minority Health Resource Center
Call the toll-free number to order the free “Breast
Cancer Resource Guide for Minority Women.” Also
available online at www.omhrc.gov/omhrc/publications/bcrg2005.pdf.
Save Our Sisters (Raleigh, NC)
Rex Cancer Center
Contact Latanja Williams, Rex Cancer Outreach
SOS is a group of specially trained lay health
advisors from the community (many are survivors)
that provides current breast health information,
resources and support. To volunteer, call
the number above.
Sisters in Partnership (Cabarrus County)
This group of African American lay health
advisors meets the 3rd Saturday of the month
at 9:00 am in the Women’s Center at
NorthEast Medical Center to plan events and
breast health education and outreach strategies.
Contact Virginia W. Hunter, vwhunter@cabarrus
health, for more information. (2006 Komen
Charlotte Affiliate Grantee)
Sisters Network, Inc.
A national African American breast cancer
survivors organization. Focuses on education,
prevention, emotional support and heightened
awareness of breast cancer for African Americans.
Three chapters in NC:
Piedmont Chapter (Tracy Cook-Brewton, Gastonia,
NC, 704.865.2227 or )
Triangle Chapter (Valarie Worthy, Durham,
NC 919.419.8284 or )
Southeastern NC Chapter (Irene Short, Lumberton,
NC 910.738.3175 or )
Books and More
Health Book: Speaking for Ourselves, by
Evelyn C. White, Ed. (1994). Over 50 African
American women write about the health issues
that affect them and the well-being of
their families and communities.
Body & Soul: The Black Women’s
Guide to Physical Health and Emotional Well-Being,
by Linda Villarosa, Ed. (1994). Sponsored
by the National Black Women’s Health
Project. Addresses physical, emotional and
spiritual health issues, and includes stories
of real women.
Health & Healing
for African Americans: Straight Talk from
More Than 150 Black Doctors on Our Top
Health Concerns, by Sheree Crute, editor,
with foreword by Joycelyn Elders, MD (1999).
Addresses everything from acne to weight
problems to breast cancer. Written by and
for African Americans; includes advice
from more than 150 medical experts.
Health for African Americans: The Physicians’ Guide,
by Marcellus A. Walker, MD and Kenneth
B. Singleton, MD (1999). The authors balance
advice about natural health methods with
the current methods of Western medicine
for the African American family.
Ourselves for the New Century: A Book by
and for Women, by Boston Women’s
Health Book Collective (1998). Covers a range
of women’s health issues including
breast cancer and addresses the concerns
of diverse women, including women of color.
Prime Time: The African
Complete Guide to Midlife Health and Wellness,
by Marilyn Hughes Gaston, MD and Gayle K.
Porter, PsyD, edited by Sheryl Hilliard Tucker
(2003). Focuses on wellness, disease prevention
and specific treatments for ailments of African
Journals, by Audre Lorde (1980).
Powerful, inspiring reflections on her breast
cancer by the late African American lesbian
poet. Contact Aunt Lute Books, 800.949.5883
Black Women’s Health
This site has resources, information and
links for African American women and their
Color and Cancer
Enlightening article about African American
women and breast cancer, from Lifetime TV’s
Medline Plus: African American Health
Covers news, nutrition, screening, research,
organizations, statistics and other information
specific to African Americans.