Black women more likely to die from breast cancer: What factors are influencing this disparity and how can they be addressed?

A woman sitting on an exam table consults with a doctor.

Awareness about the importance of breast cancer screenings and improved access to resources are having a positive impact on diagnosing breast cancer early and saving lives. According to the American Cancer Society, the death rate for breast cancer in the United States dropped 43% between 1989 and 2020. 

Although this is good news, breast cancer studies have uncovered a troubling trend. Black women are still dying at a nearly 40% higher rate from the disease than white women. 

Sasmita Misra, MD,* a community physician at UChicago Medicine Ingalls Memorial, cites four primary factors influencing the higher death rate of Black women from breast cancer: genetics, cultural norms, socioeconomic status and access to care. 

A recent study published in triple-negative breast cancer than white women because this fast-growing cancer resists hormonal therapy/surgery. This type of cancer often requires having the lump or entire breast removed, followed by chemotherapy to target unseen cancer cells.  

This approach to treating breast cancer may sound aggressive, but it may mean the difference between life or death for the patient and “is where trust in the medical provider is essential,” said Misra. 

primary care doctor

UChicago Medicine has a variety of locations across Chicagoland offering breast screenings. A referral is not required to schedule a breast screening and patients can call (855) 702-8222 or (708) 915-3333 to schedule an appointment.

*Physicians who provide services at UChicago Medicine Ingalls Memorial are independent physicians with privileges at the hospital. Independent physicians are neither employees nor agents of UChicago Medicine Ingalls Memorial, the University of Chicago, or the University of Chicago Medical Center.

medical oncologist Olwen Hahn, MD

Breast Cancer Care

Our team represents expertise across the spectrum of breast cancer care: breast imaging, breast surgery, medical and radiation oncology, plastic and reconstructive surgery, lymphedema treatment, clinical genetics, pathology and nursing. Our comprehensive care approach optimizes chances of survival and quality of life. 

Learn more about UChicago Medicine breast cancer care.