Black women in Wisconsin are more likely to die from breast cancer than any other race, according to a report released last week.
Wisconsin’s Department of Health and Family Services released its report Thursday with the findings of The Wisconsin Cancer Incidence and Mortality 2000-04 study.
The findings show that while black women are more likely to die from breast cancer, white women are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer.
University of Wisconsin African-American studies Professor Michael Thornton said the report’s results show racism still exists today.
“There’s a lot of research that suggests that who gets taken seriously in hospitals and doctors’ offices is related to race and gender,” Thornton said. “It’s related to the fact that many black women are less likely to be taken seriously compared to the white women when they go in for certain illnesses.”
Even after diagnosis, black women are less likely to get treatment compared to white women.
“We take the black women more seriously in part because of the race, but there’s an assumption that the black woman is poor or they are poor, and when you put those things together, they’re taken less seriously,” Thornton said.
The release reports approximately 3,900 women in Wisconsin were diagnosed with invasive breast cancer in 2004. That same year, 770 Wisconsin women died from breast cancer, making it second only to lung cancer — the leading cause of cancer death among women in the state.
The report also shows the breast cancer mortality rate among Wisconsin women has decreased overall between 2000-04.
“The decline in mortality is largely attributed to earlier detection and improved treatment,” the release said.
Thornton said although this is a hardship for the black population, it is just one piece of a difficult puzzle the black community faces.
“It’s part of a larger issue, of course, so it’s not just about health, but it’s also about housing. It’s also about who gets into school, who does well in school and who doesn’t do well in school,” Thornton said. “The health angle is just a small part of a larger set of issues.”
These are issues that are hurting the black population, Thornton said, and the United States must try to get past it and accept everyone equally.
“I think we’ll move closer to dealing with this if we all consider this all of our problem as opposed to a black women problem or a black problem. This is an American problem,” Thornton said.
The release reminded people that annual mammograms are recommended by the American Cancer Society for women beginning at age 40, and earlier for women at higher risk, such as those with a family history or genetic predisposition to breast cancer.
“While the decline in breast cancer incidence and mortality is encouraging, the need for effective and early screening is still very important to women of all ethnic and racial groups,” Department of Heath and Family Services Secretary Kevin Hayden said in the release.