Asian American and Pacific Islander Women
To get through the hardest
journey we need take only one step at a time,
but we must keep on stepping.
— Chinese proverb
The term, “Asian American” encompasses
many groups: Asian Indian, Bangladeshi, Bhutanese,
Burmese, Cambodian, Chinese, Filipino, Hmong,
Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Laotian, Malayan,
Mien, Nepalese, Pakistani, Sri Lanka, Thai,
Vietnamese, and several others. “Pacific
Islanders” refers to people having
origins or ancestors from Hawaii, Guam, Samoa
and other Pacific Islands. Each ethnicity
can be very different from the next, but
research on cancer incidence has tended to
combine many of these groups.
There are approximately
117,672 Asian Americans living in North
Carolina (2000, U.S. Census). The numbers
are increasing. The Asian American population
more than doubled between 1990 and 2000 in
What is the risk
of breast cancer for Asian American women?
The common belief that cancer is relatively
rare among Asian Americans is untrue. Cancer
has been the number one killer of Asian
American women since 1980.
Although Asian American
women do not get breast cancer as often
as most other ethnic groups in the United
States, they do get it more frequently than
their counterparts in Asian countries, who
have the lowest overall breast cancer rates
in the world. When Asian women migrate to
the United States, their risk of developing
breast cancer increases up to six times.
Asian immigrant women living in the United
States for as little as a decade have an
80 percent higher risk of developing breast
cancer than new immigrants. Breast cancer
incidence in Japanese American women living
in the United States, for example, is approaching
that of white women.
of breast cancer for Asian American women
is increasing at a faster rate than for
white women. For some subgroups such as Filipino
Americans and Japanese Americans, the leading
cause of cancer death is breast cancer.
Native Hawaiian women have
the second highest rate of breast cancer
of all ethnicities (whites have the highest).
They also have the third highest rate of
dying from breast cancer, and it is increasing.
challenges do Asian American women face?
Catching breast cancer early offers the
best chance for survival, but among the
ethnic groups in this country, Asian American/Pacific
Islander and Native Hawaiian women are
the least likely to have ever had a mammogram.
Studies have also found that young Asian
women have lower participation in breast
self-examination than other racial groups.
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
- 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
Carolina Hospitals and Cancer Centers).
- If you need help paying
for mammograms or treatment, see Financial
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 information.
- Communicate as much and
as openly as possible with your health
care providers. If you are not comfortable
talking openly with a provider, look for
one you can trust.
- Think about joining an
Asian-American breast cancer advocacy organization
(See Resources below).
Asian & Pacific
Islander American Health Forum
Advocates to improve health status of Asian
American and Pacific Islander communities.
Includes the Asian and Pacific Islander National
Cancer Survivors’ Network, www.apiahf.org/programs/ncsn,
an advocacy/survivors’ group.
Health Awareness Program for Immigrants
in Wake County (Raleigh, NC)
This program from Boat People SOS, Inc.,
helps Vietnamese uninsured and underinsured
women with breast health education, early
detection and mammograms. (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. Offers fact sheets
about Asian Americans and cancer.
Advocates for underserved women. Publications
on women’s health available.
National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship
Offers the Cancer Survivor’s Toolbox,
free audiotapes developed by oncology professionals
and cancer survivors, that focuses on six
key skills to help survivors, family members
and caregivers. Available in Chinese.
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.
Books and More
of Struggle: A Personal Insight into the
Cure, by Palvinder Dhanjal (2002).
Author was a student when she was diagnosed
with cancer. She gives insight into problems
young Asian women face when dealing with
Asian and Pacific Islander Cancer Listserv
API Cancer is an e-mail discussion list for
Asian and Pacific Islander cancer survivors,
families and friends, healthcare providers,
researchers, and others. Shares news about
cancer research, events, funding opportunities,
general cancer issues, and provides an open
forum for members to interact.
Asian Pacific Islanders
Has translations in several languages about
breast cancer and cervical cancer screening.
Breast Cancer Resources for Asian American/Pacific
Includes a page of information and resources
about breast cancer in Asian American women
from the National Women’s Health Information
Medline Plus: Asian American Health
Covers news, nutrition, screening, research,
organizations, statistics and other issues
specific to Asian Americans.