Doctors have noticed lower-income women, many of them minorities, tend to have more advanced cases of breast cancer. It may have nothing to do with genetics, but with access to insurance and medical care.
"Unfortunately, some women may delay or not have screenings," said Dr. Adrian Caracioni, Hematologist and Oncologist with Cotton-O'Neil Clinic. "That can have significant repercussions on the ultimate outcome."
A 2002 survey by the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation found only eight percent of minority women 40 and older had routine mammograms, compared to 38 percent of white women. Figures from that same year show between 12- and 29-percent more white women than black women were diagnosed with breast cancer, yet black women were 28 percent more likely than white women to die from the disease.
Caracioni says it illustrates the huge difference screening can make.
"The earlier you find the tumor, the more curable it can be, number one. Number two, the aesthetic results of surgery are better because it would require a smaller surgery."
It's not enough to be screened just once. Women over age forty need a mammogram every year. Caracioni said that's because a tumor may be so small it doesn't show up one year, but it will grow and divide, and could be detected the next year.
The Race Against Breast Cancer is teaming up with Saint Francis and Stormont-Vail hospitals to provide a week of free mammograms next month. To find out if you qualify and to schedule an appointment, call Health Connections at 354-5225.
You can also find more information about the program and this year's 5k race at www.rabctopeka.org.