Addressing Disparities in Breast Cancer for Black Women

September 30, 2022 

Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers among women in the U.S. About 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in their life. According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer disproportionately affects Black women. 

  • Black women are more likely to have breast cancer diagnosed at a younger age and an advanced stage.
  • Diagnoses often detect triple negative breast cancers, which are aggressive cancers with a poor prognosis.
  • While white women get breast cancer at a slightly higher rate, Black women have a 40% higher mortality rate than white women.
  • The threat of dying from breast cancer for Black women is higher than any other racial group.

Non-medical drivers of health, such as education levels and poverty, also are linked to different breast cancer outcomes. Mortality rates are higher among women with less education, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, and low socioeconomic status is linked to inconsistent access to care. See our Health Equity and Social Determinants of Health page for more information on health equity. 

How You Can Help
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that women ages 50 to 74 be screened for breast cancer every two years. Annual wellness exams are a great opportunity to get the conversation started.

  • Offer telehealth services when available and appropriate for preventive care appointments.
  • Talk with our members about the importance of regular breast cancer screening for women and the unique risks and barriers faced by Black women. We’ve created information for members that may help.
  • You may want to discuss with members the risks and benefits of starting screening mammograms before age 50. See our preventive care guidelines on breast cancer screening for reminders.
  • Partner with mammogram facilities to ensure members with referrals complete their mammogram.
  • Follow up with members if they miss their appointment and help them reschedule.
  • For members who have transportation barriers, let them know that we provide Medicaid members with free non-emergency transportation services.
  • For members who need language assistance, let them know we offer help and information in their language at no cost. To speak to an interpreter, members may call the customer service number on their member ID card.

Closing Gaps in Care
Finally, be sure to document screenings and results in the member’s electronic medical record. This helps us monitor and improve our members’ care by tracking their progress on Breast Cancer Screening. This quality measure from the National Committee for Quality Assurance tracks women ages 50 to 74 who had at least one mammogram in the past two years. As we learn about gaps in care, we can reach out to members who haven’t had their screenings to help identify and address barriers they may be facing.

The information in this article is being provided for educational purposes only and is not the provision of medical care or advice. Physicians and other health care providers are encouraged to use their own best medical judgment based upon all available information and the condition of the patient in determining the best course of treatment. 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.