Barriers to breast screening for younger women of color



Adult women of all ages are encouraged to do breast self-exams.

But the next steps can be confusing if someone under the age of 40 finds a tumor. This is especially true in communities of color.

That’s what happened to Dorianna Owens, a 36-year-old black woman who discovered a lump in her breast.

Owens has been doing her own breast exams for years now, so she recently learned something was wrong.

Owens said: ‘I found this lump and now I’m terrified because it runs in my family.

Worried it might be cancer, Owens wanted a mammogram.

It sounds simple, but it’s not.

Breast cancer surgeon Adam Riker admits there are some barriers to care.

“There’s definitely a healthcare disparity there that we’ve recognized and are working to bridge to help the people who need it most with these types of procedures and mammograms even seeing a doctor. ,” Riker said.

Whether lack of money or insurance, location or mere fear, it’s a problem that affects many women of color, including women Owen knows.

“A lot of them, by the time they get there and get help,” says Owens. “It was too late.”

Riker said African-American women are often diagnosed with late-stage breast cancer.

“Their overall outcome is really poor, their overall survival is poor in stages,” Riker said.

Owens’ age is also working against her.

Owens needs a referral for a mammogram because she’s under 40.

She was unable to contact her primary care physician to get a referral to find out if she had breast cancer.

“I guess it wasn’t an emergency or a necessity so they kept pushing me away,” Owens said. “You are so young. We can give you a couple of months, we have other things going on in the pandemic, you know. And now here we are, January and it’s about the size of a citrus.”

Owens believes it has now tripled in size.

“It was swollen, the skin on it was rough,” says Owens. “It has a texture that my breasts have never had before.”

And, Owens is in pain.

The earliest appointment she can get is in a few weeks.

“So I’m here with you because I need someone to do something,” Owens said.

Riker says breast exams are extremely valuable. Many of his patients first notice a lump in their breast.

This is Instructions on how to check breasts.

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