Dr. Clifford Young, a Vincentian-born frontline medical doctor in Brooklyn, says that, despite the controversy of when to start screening for breast cancer, undergoing mammographic screening is the best modality for early identification of the disease.
Throughout October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Dr. Young – an attending physician at Cumberland Diagnostic and Treatment Center in Brooklyn and an assistant professor at SUNY Downstate College of Medicine in Brooklyn – said that “it is vital to highlight the importance of early detection.
“Though most breast cancer diagnoses occur in women, men also have breast cancer,” he told Caribbean Life on Sunday. “However, due to the low incidence of the disease in men, medical practitioners do not typically screen for breast cancer. Thus, breast cancer in women remains the focus.”
Dr. Young – a board-certified internist and a fellow of the American College of Physicians, who currently serves as the medical director of Citi Medical of Canarsie, P.C. in the Canarsie section of Brooklyn – said that, when diagnosing a patient with breast cancer, the first reaction is usually shock and disbelief.
“The patient will then wonder, ‘why me?’” he said. “The empathic response to the patient is that ‘you are not alone’ and assures medical practitioners’ supportive role while receiving treatment.”
Dr. Young said the earlier a diagnosis is identified, the better the prognosis in treating the disease.
In analyzing the makeup of breast cancer patients, he said, “there is a tremendous racial disparity.
“Generally, Black women are diagnosed at more advanced disease stages and, as a result, have poorer outcomes than their white counterparts,” Dr. Young said. “The reasons plaguing the disparity in cancer detection include a lack of access to care, medical culture and the spread of misinformation surrounding breast cancer awareness.
“In identifying some misinformation, some patients think (that) undergoing the mammogram procedure will result in a breast cancer diagnosis,” he added. “To increase the survival rate for breast cancer patients, especially in African American women, appropriate screening, leading to early diagnosis and prompt treatment, is paramount.”
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), besides skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common form of cancer affecting women in the US.
NCBI said breast cancer is also the most prevalent cancer affecting women of every ethnic group in the United States.
The Journal of Cancer also said that breast cancer currently affects more than one in 10 women worldwide.
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) said the rate of getting and dying from breast cancer differs among ethnic groups.
Recent studies showed that while new cases of breast cancer are about the same for Black and White women, the incidence rate of breast cancer before age 45 is higher among Black women than white women, whereas between the ages of 60 and 84, breast cancer incidence rates are strikingly higher in white women than in Black women, according to NCBI.
Yet, Black women are more likely to die from breast cancer at every age, the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries (NAACCR) and NCI said.
Meanwhile, they said that the incidence and death rates for breast cancer are lower among women of other racial and ethnic groups than among non-Hispanic white and Black women, stating that Asian/Pacific Islander women have the lowest incidence and death rates.
Despite medical improvements in early detection, diagnosis and screening, many Black women are less likely to obtain adequate treatment compared with White women, according to Current Opinion in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and the Journal of Cancer Causes Control.
“Given all the research work that has been conducted for breast cancer treatment, with limited success for African Americans, new strategies and approaches are needed to promote breast cancer prevention, improve survival rates, reduce breast cancer mortality and improve the health outcomes of racial/ethnic minorities,” NCBI said.
“In addition, it is vital that leaders and medical professionals from minority population groups be represented in decision-making in research studies, so that racial disparity in breast cancer can be well-studied, fully addressed and ultimately eliminated in breast cancer,” it urged.