Black women are more likely to be diagnosed with more aggressive breast cancer and to die from it.
ATLANTA — October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Studies show Black women are disproportionately affected by more aggressive forms of breast cancer and are more likely to die from it.
Tresia Bowles is sharing a personal story that affected her family, as her mother, Calvenia Bowles, was diagnosed two years ago.
Bowles said Black women are always putting others before themselves.
“Sometimes, we get so caught up as mothers and caregivers that we forget to take care of ourselves,” Calvenia said, “And we’re first.”
Karita Robinson knows this all, too well. Robinson said, much like everyone else in 2020, she was putting off annual check-ups. Plus, it was difficult to get appointments during the pandemic. She brought up to her doctor that she felt a weird sensation in her left breast. When Robinson got it checked out, she was eventually diagnosed with breast cancer. After eight rounds of chemotherapy and a double mastectomy, six months later, she felt a lump.
“I got it checked out,” Robinson said, “And it turns out that it was not it’s not a seroma. It was, in fact, cancer yet again.”
Robinson went through more chemo and radiation. Just as things were getting back to normal for her, her husband, and her three daughters–another curveball. Doctors found a spot on her lung.
“Cancer had, once again, come back,” Robinson said, “And it had spread to my left lung.”
When it’s time for Black women to start putting themselves first and speaking up, it can often feel like it’s falling on deaf ears.
“Sometimes, when we do go to the doctor, our concerns are kind of overlooked and that was much my experience, initially,” Robinson.
It’s a common experience for Black women. A study with the National Library of Medicine found high levels of discrimination in the medical field.
Calvenia Bowles said being a respiratory therapist for over 30 years gives her an advantage.
“By me being a medical professional, it also helps so I can be an advocate for my own health,” Calvenia said.
That’s why she’s urging Black women to take charge.
Calvenia was diagnosed with the same form of breast cancer as Karita, one year later. This is triple-negative breast cancer, one of the most aggressive forms. They supported each other through it and said if it hadn’t been for advocates in their corners, a supportive family, and faith, their journeys would have been much more difficult.
Their message to Black women is to make their health a priority, as it likely saved their lives.
“Black women, in particular, need to take that initiative to go out and find the resources to get a mammogram,” Calvenia said, “Don’t put that off ever.”
Calvenia and Robinson are both in remission and doing well.
Next week is the Georgia, two-day breast cancer wall. Learn more here.