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Examining the Financial Impact of Breast Cancer on African American Women


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The American Cancer society and the pharmaceutical division of Imperial Chemical Industries launched Breast Cancer Awareness Month in 1985. Designed to educate women on the benefits of early detection and regular mammograms, Breast Cancer Awareness month has risen in popularity over the years. In addition to providing knowledge about early detection and care, the month of October is the time to celebrate breast cancer survivors and those currently battling breast cancer. October is also a time dedicated to raising funds for breast cancer research.

While early detection and advanced options for treatment have dramatically improved survival rates for breast cancer patients, the costs of breast cancer treatment have skyrocketed. According to the National Cancer Institute, breast cancer treatment exceeds the cost of treatment for any other type of cancer. Two years ago, it was estimated that the medical expenditures for breast cancer would top $16 billion (Seegert, 2020).

It is important to note that breast cancer treatment and care extends far beyond the initial diagnosis and early treatments. Consequently, the financial impact on breast cancer patients, survivors, and their families can last for many, many, years. Extended breast cancer treatment has the potential to eat into discretionary income, savings, and retirement funds. Financial toxicity is the term used to describe the financial problems and stress that cancer patients often encounter.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention women of color with breast cancer have inferior experiences and health outcomes compared to White women. African American women, also have more financial toxicity. One factor impacting the financial toxicity of African American women includes the ongoing wage gap between White men and African American women. Recent data indicated that African American women were paid .58c for every $1 earned by non-Hispanic white men for doing the same job. Other factors impacting African American women’s’ financial toxicity are socioeconomic disadvantages including limited or no health insurance, lower education, and a greater likelihood of being single (Seegert, 2020).

To lessen the stress of financial toxicity and improve the likelihood of a clean bill of health, it is important to seek financial assistance and guidance as soon as possible. Do not postpone seeking support that can help you manage your budget, and secure funding for fundamental essentials such as rent and food. Individuals with assets in retirement funds, should seek professional advice prior to withdrawing funds to cover medical costs. Individuals without discretionary income, or other cash assets available to withdraw from should seek support from cancer support groups which often offer free financial advice.


AAUW (2022). Retrieved from https://www.aauw.org/resources/article/black-women-and-the-pay-gap/

Seegert, L. (2020). Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/nextavenue/2020/01/21/the-financial-burden-of-breast-cancer/?sh=50ecf1954d21


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