Cancer
Screenings

While all cancers can be life-changing, this website focuses on breast, cervical, colorectal, and prostate cancers because they have screening tests available. Screenings are tests that can detect cancer before one can see it or feel it, making it easier to treat. The best-known defenses against cancer are maintaining a healthy weight; regular, moderate exercise for at least 30 minutes 5 times a week, not smoking, and early detection through screening. African American/Black communities are among groups at higher risks for these cancers with more aggressive, faster-growing cancers at younger ages. 

The good news is cancers may be easier to treat when caught early.It's more important than ever to learn about your family's cancer history: who had it, what type of cancer, how old they were, and what happened to them. This information will allow you and your doctor to create a screening plan that’s right for you. Learn more about why African Americans/Black persons are at higher risk for colorectal (colon or rectum) cancer, breast cancer, cervical cancer, and prostate cancer.
Cancer screenings are an important way to protect the health of you and your family.
  • Colorectal (Colon or Rectum) Cancer

    Rates of colorectal (colon or rectum) cancer are higher among African Americans/Black persons than among any other population group in the United States and the survival rates are lower. 

    Unhealthy diet (high in meats and animal fats while low in fruits and vegetables) and obesity may increase African Americans’/Black person’s risk of developing and dying from colon cancer. Also, genes and family habits may play a role in risk and survival. There are many possible reasons for the difference in survival rates between African Americans/Black persons and other populations.

    African Americans/Black persons are: 
    • Less likely to have regular screenings for colorectal cancer
    • Less likely to be diagnosed in the early stages when the cancer can be readily treated and even cured
    • Less likely to receive recommended treatment
    • More likely to receive a lower-quality colonoscopy
    • More likely to have treatment delays
    • More likely to be diagnosed with right-sided tumors, which have less favorable outcomes
  • Breast Cancer

    Women and men are at risk for breast cancer. Breast size doesn’t matter. The risk increases with age.

    African American/Black women are more likely than White women to be diagnosed with breast cancer under the age of 45, and less likely to survive. There are many possible reasons for the difference in survival rates. African American/Black women are: 
    • Less likely to have access to high-quality health care
    • Less likely to have screening at high-quality facility with the most current technology and also have a longer time between abnormal results and follow-up
    • More likely to be diagnosed at a younger age
    • More likely to be diagnosed with more advanced cancer
    • More likely to be diagnosed with aggressive cancer
  • Cervical Cancer

    African American/Black women are more likely to die of cervical cancer than any other racial or ethnic group. There are a few likely reasons for the difference in survival. African American/Black women are:
    • Less likely to get screened for cervical cancer
    • Less likely to have access to care and receipt of high-quality treatment
    • Less likely to receive recommended follow-up after a positive cervical cancer screening test
    • More likely to be diagnosed with more advanced cancer 
    HPV Vaccine and screening are the best ways to defend against and detect cervical cancer. The HPV vaccine is important because it protects against cancers caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. Most people with HPV never develop symptoms or health problems. And, sometimes, HPV infections can cause certain cancers, including cervical cancer and other diseases.

    The vaccine, however, does not protect against all HPV types— so it will not prevent all cases of cervical cancer related to HPV, or cervical cancers that are notHPV-related. So, it is important for women to also continue getting screened for cervical cancer. 
  • Prostate Cancer

    African American/Black men have the highest rate of prostate cancer in the world and are more likely to die of the disease than any other group. Researchers still don’t know exactly why this is the case and have suggested that biology and genetics may play a role. The difference in African American/Black men’s survival rates from prostate cancer may also be the result of:
    • Less likely to get screened for prostate cancer
    • Less access to high-quality treatment
    • More likely to be diagnosed at a younger age
    • More likely to be diagnosed at later stages of the disease when there are fewer treatment options available
    • More likely to have aggressive cancer
    • More likely to receive substandard treatment
Get regular cancer screenings. If your doctor doesn’t talk to you about cancer screening, be sure to ask! 

Screening recommendations for prostate cancer: If you are aged 55 to 69 years, talk with your doctor about the risks and benefits of the prostate cancer screening. An informed decision should be made with your doctor about whether being screened for prostate cancer is right for you. 

Screening recommendations for cervical cancer: If you are 21-29: You should be screened every three years. If you are 30-65: you should be screened every three to five years, depending on the testing approach. If you are 65 or older, discuss continued screening with your doctor as you may be able to stop screening. 

Screening recommendations for breast cancer: Get regular mammograms. While there are different guidelines, these are from theU.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) (PDF). If you are between the ages of 50 and 74, you should get a mammogram every 2 years. If you are under 49 or over 75, talk to your doctor about when to get a mammogram. If your doctor doesn’t talk to you about a mammogram, ask him or her. 

Screening recommendations for colorectal cancer: Start by talking with your doctor about your family history of colon and rectal cancers and find out when you should get screened and what type of colon cancer screening is best for you. If you have no personal or family history of abnormal results, get screened for colorectal cancer starting at age 45 years. Several screening options are available, including an exam that looks at the colon and rectum (a visual exam), or a test that looks for signs of cancer in a person’s stool (a stool-based test). All colon cancer screening tests, including stool-based ones, are covered under the Affordable Care Act and maybe an option if your doctor orders it. Also, talk to your doctor about when you need to be re-screened depending on your screening option.

Reference: US Preventive Services Task Force
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  • "I don’t have a doctor. I don’t know where to go."

    There are many online tools to help you find a nearby doctor or clinic that can screen for cancer.
    • The National Medical Association (NMA) Physician Locator can help you find an African American/Black doctor in your area.
    • Most health insurance plans feature a “Find a Doctor” section on their website. Visit your insurance provider’s website to locate a doctor in your area.
    • The Association of Black Women Physicians can help you find a female AfricanAmerican/Black doctor in your area. This nonprofit is an organized network of AfricanAmerican/Black women physicians committed to the improvement of public health and welfare.
    • National Cancer Institute (1-800-4-CANCER)
    • American Cancer Society (1-800-227-2345)
    For Women:
  • "I'm not sure I can get to an appointment."

    Getting to your appointment can be hard, but don’t let this stopyou. Check your local transit authority for bus ortrain schedules. Mobile apps like Uber and Lyft can provide door-to-doorservice to and from your appointment for much less than a taxi. Or reach outfor help! You may be able to get a ride from a friend or family member.
  • "I'm worried I can't afford a mammogram."

    Mammograms have been covered by insurance since 2010 (when the Affordable Care Act passed). Depending on your insurance, you may be able to get your mammogram for free. You can find out by checking with your health plan or doctor. For low-income, uninsured, and underinsured women, there are other options:
  • "I'm scared it will hurt."

    Mammograms may be uncomfortable for some women for a short time because they press down on the breasts. Patients who are sensitive or worried about pain may want to schedule their mammogram a week after their menstrual period when the breasts are less tender.
  • "I don't want to know if something is wrong."

    Waiting for mammogram results can be stressful and weigh heavily on your mind. Talk with your friends, family, or doctor if you are very worried. Ask for support. The National Breast Cancer Foundation and other websites offer helpful tips for what to do when waiting for results. 
  • "I need help quitting smoking."

    You can find many free smoking cessation resources on the web like SmokeFree.gov or WebMD's Smoking Cessation Health Center