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When Should Breast Cancer Screenings Start For Black Women?

Young woman is doing a breast ultrasound for preventive breast cancer care

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Black women have been told to start screening for Breast Cancer around the age of 50 but there may be multiple reasons why you may need to start earlier. Studies show that deaths from Breast Cancer among Black women are double compared to other races. Some African-American women are concerned about the treatment that they may receive from their physicians. In today’s “Medical Minute with Dr. Mel,” our resident medical maven, Dr. Melissa Clarke explains why the conversation may need to happen sooner.


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Georgia Alfredas: There is a lot of evidence that black women should start breast cancer screening earlier than fifty. I’ve been told my whole life that you started at 50. Is that not correct information?

Dr. Clarke: Well, the current screening guidelines do say that women at average risk for breast cancer shouldn’t start mammography screening until age 50. You can choose to start in your 40s, but there was a new American Cancer Society study, that shows that among women in their 40s, deaths from breast cancer were nearly doubled among black women as compared to white women and for that reason alone, as black women, we should start bringing up screening to our doctors, especially if we have a family history and request to start in our 40s, not in our 50s.




Alfredas: Let me ask you something you know, so many people, you know, suffer from some kind of cancer, especially breast cancer, many cancers. Are closer to a cure for cancer?

Dr. Clarke: You know, it really this cancer is not one disease. So, it really depends on what part of the body it’s occurring in. How far along it is when it’s diagnosed. And so, yes, there are many, many treatments for different kinds of cancers that have very high success rates. The key is early detection so that’s why I really encourage everybody to see their doctor once a year if you have a family history of cancer. Especially, make sure that you’re in touch so that you’re abiding by screening guidelines and choices to start early. For example, breast cancer it’s really important.

Alfredas: As black patients, some people are concerned about encountering discrimination and bias. When you go to. A doctor when you go. To a hospital. Do you? Do you find that that’s true?

Dr. Clarke: Well, you know, it’s happened to me, so yes, I do find that it’s true with the medical literature, even as a physician, medical literature does bear it out. And you know what we’re seeing is that some people are changing their behavior as a result. So, there was a survey of 3300 Black Californians and many of them adjust their behavior to reduce chances of discrimination in healthcare settings. Things like changing your speech, your dress, or your behavior to put the doctor at ease.

And that 41% of people, you know, try to be clear with the doctor that they’re educated, they’re knowledgeable, they’re prepared, and then about one in four black people just avoid care altogether simply because they believe they’ll be treated unfairly. So, you know, that’s what we do on my show “Excuse me, Doctor,” which is really. Help you advocate for yourself and your loved one in healthcare settings and get the best quality care.





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When Should Breast Cancer Screenings Start For Black Women?  was originally published on