Cancer Care and National Minority Health Month: Why It Matters

In the United States, cancer is the second leading cause of death, exceeded only by heart disease. Every year, more than 1.6 million Americans are diagnosed with cancer, and more than 600,000 people die from the disease. While cancer can affect anyone, regardless of race or ethnicity, some groups are more likely to develop certain types of cancer than others.

In recognition of this issue, the month of April is National Minority Health Month. This yearly observance was established to raise awareness of cancer-related health disparities that exist among racial, ethnic, and sexual minority groups in the United States. National Minority Health Month is also an opportunity to promote the importance of cancer prevention and early detection among these groups.

For example, African Americans are more likely to develop breast and prostate cancer at a younger age than white women, and they are also more likely to die from the disease. Hispanic women are more likely to develop cervical cancer, and Asian Americans are more likely to develop liver cancer. When undergoing genetic testing for hereditary cancer, Black Americans, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are more likely to receive a confusing test result known as a “variant of uncertain significance” — a change in a person’s DNA that has an unknown effect on their cancer risk. Additionally, Minorities are also more likely to be diagnosed with cancer at later stages when the disease is more difficult to treat. These disparities in cancer incidence and mortality are due in part to differences in access to quality health care, as well as socioeconomic factors such as poverty and education level.

This year’s National Minority Health Month takes on new urgency in the wake of a pandemic that has exposed and exacerbated long-standing health disparities by further reducing access to early diagnosis. By addressing the underlying conditions that contribute to health disparities, we can truly make progress in achieving health equity.

Knowing whether an inherited gene mutation increases your cancer risk can save your life and the lives of your family members. Screenings, regular doctor visits, and other steps can help people prevent cancer or catch it at its earliest, most treatable stage are critical first steps.

If you have symptoms or suspect that hereditary cancer runs in your family, protect yourself against a late-stage cancer diagnosis.

  1. Learn your family history of cancer.
  2. Talk to your healthcare provider about routine screenings you should be having.
  3. Ask if genetic counseling and testing might be appropriate.

Join Coastal Cancer Center in raising awareness about health disparities that continue to affect people from diverse racial, ethnic and LGBTQ+ groups. We can all make an impact by encouraging others to safeguard their health through education, cancer screening and prevention. 

There are many ways to get involved in National Minority Health Month including:

  1. Learn more about cancer-related health disparities
  2. Learn about your family history
  3. Make a donation to a cancer charity
  4. Start a conversation about the issue with your friends and family

If you are a member of a minority group, remember that you are not alone. Coastal Cancer Center seeks to raise awareness and improve access to oncology services. If you see a need in the community, please let a member of the Coastal Cancer Center team know so that we can continue to work to eliminate cancer care disparity in the community we serve.