MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among African American women and it is proving deadly. Although black women are diagnosed less frequently than white women, black women have a higher death rate.
It is now one of the leading causes of death in black women under 45. But there is a Twin Cities group working to change that, the African American Breast Cancer Alliance.
AABCA was founded by six women in 1990, all had just been diagnosed with breast cancer.
They started the group because they did not see women who looked like them involved in support groups.
They quickly learned there was no information out there about black women and the challenges they face after a breast cancer diagnosis.
“I am a 23-year breast cancer survivor,” said Reona Berry.
Berry loves to share her story of survival in hopes it encourages others to get educated and checked for breast cancer.
“Even though our incident rates are low, our death rates are high,” Berry said.
She said black women have a higher risk of not living long after a breast cancer diagnosis.
“We have more aggressive breast cancers at earlier ages so for us that were diagnosed before 40, when they tell us to wait until we are 40 and 50 to have a mammogram, we already have breast cancer in most cases,” Berry said.
More than 27,000 new cases of breast cancer are expected to occur among black women in 2013.
Among women under 45, the mortality rate of breast cancer is higher in blacks than in whites, mainly because of social and economic barriers.
“We were the first breast cancer support group for African Americans in the Midwest when we started in 1990,” Berry said.
Berry said AABCA learned the facts about black women and breast cancer could not be found in a brochure, so they created one.
It is now used nationally and internationally.
Doctors, community centers and even Susan G. Komen use AABCA’s information to reach those who have been hard to reach in the past.
This weekend AABCA will celebrate life, the lives of women who are sisters in the struggle to educate and support those who are in the fight of their lives.
“We want people to know the big C that we have is called celebrate,” Berry said.
AABCA hopes to teach young women how to do self-exams and prepare them for the realities of a mammogram.
They also work with black men.
AABCA is seeing a growing number of men who have been diagnosed with breast cancer.
Members of the group and the public are invited to AABCA’s 23rd celebration of life Saturday. For more information, click here.