INGLEWOOD (CBSLA) — Ahead of the annual Susan G. Komen Race For The Cure In Los Angeles, one breast cancer survivor is helping spread the word of the increased risk of the disease befalling Africa-American women.
“I just cried, ‘Why me?’ No one in my family but me has been diagnosed with breast cancer,” survivor Tracy Butler told CBS2 News. She was diagnosed with breast cancer 15 years ago.
“I just thought it could never happen to me,” said Butler, who was working in radiology at the time.
It’s a common thought among women, but experts say black women often ignore the signs and symptoms of breast cancer, which could contribute to the following statistic.
“There’s 43 percent risk that you will die of breast cancer as an African-American woman,” warns Baldwin Hills family practitioner Dr. Sharon McGarrity. She added that, while the general population has a 90 percent survival rate for breast cancer, it drops to 75 percent for black women.
McGarrity said that genetics and biology are factors in acquiring the disease, but she said many black women don’t get diagnosed until it’s too late.
“It’s fear, is one. They don’t want to be found to have something like cancer,” said McGarrity, who said a lack of access to medical facilities adds to the problem.
That’s why Brad Schmidt opened an advanced imaging center in Inglewood, a predominately African-American part of Los Angeles that had been underserved.
“I felt cancer access should be accessible to everyone,” said Schmidt, CEO of Inglewood Imaging Center. “We think patients should be getting access to the top-level imaging, and that’s why we’re here,” Schmidt told CBS2.
This facility is just one of the places where Komen sends women that are either uninsured or underinsured, one of many partnerships that ensures that every woman can get a mammogram.
“Mammograms are a federally-covered benefit, so everyone in the United States is covered under a federal program,” said Schmidt.
Despite the fact, many women still forgo the screenings.
Tracy Butler hopes women will fight the urge to avoid getting diagnosed.
“I believe you’re gonna do whatever you gotta do to make it happen,” said Butler.
In the U.S., one woman will die of breast cancer every 13 minutes. In Los Angeles, 100 people are diagnosed with breast cancer every week.
The Susan G. Komen Race For The Cure takes place Saturday, March 10 at Dodger Stadium. Click here for more information on the event and about how to get involved.