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Breast cancer and Black women: The importance of early detection and self-care

'A lot of people don't get mammograms because they think they cant afford it. You can quality for a free mammogram.'

CLEVELAND — 66-year-old Bernadette Scruggs braved her battle with breast cancer. She credits her survival to something simple: Self-care.

"I’m still here and living 15 years later because of a mammogram," she says. "Early detection saved my life. Just because I didn't know I had cancer didn't mean I didn't have cancer."

Self-care comes in many forms, but for Scruggs, as a Black woman, she made breast health a top priority.

"We do an outstanding job with keeping the outside of us looking good with our hair and nail appointments, so we're just asking we make a shift in how we do things and just spend one hour out of the year and get a mammogram," Scruggs says.

Through her recovery, Scruggs made a promise. By spreading awareness, she found purpose in sharing her story with other women -- especially those who look just like her.

RELATED: The importance of self-exams: 'Do It For Danielle' breast cancer conversation with writer Regina Brett

Editor's note: Video in the player above was originally published in a previous story on May 17, 2022.

According to the National Breast Cancer Coalition, African-American women are 40 percent more likely to die from breast cancer than white women.

What's more alarming?

Up to 30 percent of Black women are more likely to die from aggressive forms of breast cancer because of lower early detection rates and limited access to treatment.

But why? It's the question health experts find difficult to answer.

Dr. Amanda Amin, Chief of Breast Surgery at University Hospitals, says recent data shows Black women have a lower socio-economic status, which restricts them from catching breast cancer early and treating it.

RELATED: The healing journey after breast cancer: 3News' Danielle Wiggins and writer Regina Brett on coping and asking for help

But the real self-care starts with bringing Black women more awareness, education and resources.

"A lot of people don't get mammograms because they think they cant afford it," Scruggs says. "You can quality for a free mammogram. Some people are not sure when you should get a mammogram."

Her passion is working to bring free or more affordable resources like breast exams and more access to mammograms for Black women within our communities through groups like the "Gathering Place" and "Shows" or "Survivors Helping Other Women Survive."

"That's why we have the tutorial part of our program -- and that's to go over the misconceptions and risk factors -- and highlight the screening guidelines of early detection because that could mean the difference between saving your life and saving your breast," Scruggs says.

Dr. Amin also says that while Black women have a lower five-year survival rate overall and for every stage of diagnosis, breast cancer remains more curable today because more women are prioritizing annual breast examinations.

RELATED: Danielle Wiggins returns to WKYC’s ‘GO!’ morning show after breast cancer surgery

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