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Help Close the Disparity Gap for Black Women and Breast Cancer

Posted April 1, 2021

Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers among American women. While breast cancer is most prevalent in white women, Black women have a higher mortality rate. Not only do Black women have the highest breast cancer mortality rate of all races and ethnicities, but they have a 40% higher breast cancer mortality rate compared to white women. 

Black women are more likely to have denser breasts (an indicator of breast cancer risk) and to develop breast cancer before age 50. Black women are at an increased risk for triple negative breast cancers, which are typically associated with poorer health outcomes; and they have a shorter survival rate 5 years after diagnosis. 

Black women are also more likely to be at an advanced stage at diagnosis, largely due to lower access to quality care and potentially receiving health care services at lower resourced or unaccredited facilities, inadequate mammogram screenings and lack of timely follow-up for abnormal findings.1 Due to these disparities, early breast cancer screening is even more critical for Black women.

How You Can Help

  • Outreach and educate our members on the importance of breast cancer screening and discuss the unique risks that impact Black women. 
  • Optimize use of telehealth services when available and appropriate for preventive care appointments.
  • Encourage members to complete the Assess Your Risk  quiz offered by BrightPink to learn more about their personal breast and ovarian cancer risk.
  • Participate in shared decision making to identify the best screening and treatment options for each member.
  • Assist members in scheduling mammogram appointments and help ensure access to transportation. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois (BCBSIL) provides Medicaid members with free non-emergency transportation services.
  • Partner with mammogram facilities to ensure members with referrals complete their mammogram and conduct follow-up outreach to members if they miss their appointment.
  • Identify barriers and social determinants of health associated with mammogram completion. Include ICD-10 Z codes for social determinants of health  on claims submitted to BCBSIL so that we can help address barriers and connect members with available resources. 

1 American Cancer Society, Cancer Facts & Figures for African Americans 2019-2021, Retrieved Feb. 10, 2021. https://www.cancer.org/research/cancer-facts-statistics.html

2 CancerConnect. Black American Women and Breast Cancer Disparity. Sept. 12, 2020. https://news.cancerconnect.com/breast-cancer/black-american-women-and-breast-cancer-disparity-g082Ef4o7UqUGaGI1sSNzg

The above material is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for the independent medical judgment of a physician or other health care provider. Physicians and other health care providers are encouraged to use their own medical judgment based upon all available information and the condition of the patient in determining the appropriate course of treatment. References to third party sources or organizations are not a representation, warranty or endorsement of such organizations. Any questions regarding those organizations should be addressed to them directly. The fact that a service or treatment is described in this material is not a guarantee that the service or treatment is a covered benefit and members should refer to their certificate of coverage for more details, including benefits, limitations and exclusions. Regardless of benefits, the final decision about any service or treatment is between the member and their health care provider.