Recent figures released by the American Cancer Society showed a decrease in overall cancer cases, but there’s concern about one group within the numbers. Des Moines doctor Deborah Turner says the decrease in cancer cases among African-Americans has not kept up with others.
Turner says the cancer rates among African-Americans are "still significantly higher than all other races and ethnic groups in America." Turner says there’s still a divide in the cancer cases and the divide is increasing. Turner says the issue is really magnified when you look at specific types of cancer. Turner says the two major cancers that leave a big impression with her are prostate cancer and breast cancer. She says the prostate cancer death rates in African-American men is two-point-four times higher than in majority, or white men.
The death rate for breast cancer is one-point-four times higher in African-American women. Turner says that’s a significant difference. Turner says there are some factors that are leading to higher rates in African-Americans. Turner says it appears that African-Americans are getting diagnosed and treated later, and the later you’re diagnosed, the tougher it is to treat the cancer, and the prognosis is going to be worse. Turner says access to healthcare is part of the issue too.
Turner says it depends on where you get your care, do you get the most sophisticated and up-to-date care. Finally, she says a big piece is education — being educated about what your symptoms are, what you need to watch for, what you need to tell your providers, what your providers need to be asking you. Turner says some of the problem is overcoming old ideas about going to the doctor.
Turner says there is a still a lot of the feeling that you don’t go to the doctor unless "you really, really need to go to the doctor." Turner says there still is an element of African-Americans being uncertain about seeking health care, especially if the care is provided primarily by white doctors. Turner says the task now is to seek out ways to educate African-Americans in a way that can reach them and explain the importance of preventative care. For more information anytime, call toll free 1-800-ACS-2345 or visit the cancer society website.