BHealthy Blog

Surgeon Stresses Importance of Mammograms Among African American Women

Camille Richards, MD, Baptist Health-Fort Smith & Chris Roberts, RN, Baptist Health Breast Center

One in eight American women is diagnosed with breast cancer during her lifetime.

However, African American women have a higher mortality rate than other racial or ethnic groups. Statistics show Black women are more likely to develop more aggressive, more advanced-stage breast cancer that is diagnosed at a younger age, according to

“Breast cancer is actually more common in African American women under the age of 45 and African American women are more likely to die from breast cancer regardless of age,” said Camille Richards, MD, a general surgeon who treats breast cancer at Baptist Health-Fort Smith.

Some individuals have a higher risk for developing breast cancer based on certain intrinsic factors like a personal or family history of breast, ovarian or tubal cancer, or a genetic mutation that increases your risk.

But about 85% of breast cancers occur in women with no family history of breast cancer. Dr. Richards stresses that screening mammograms are vital for all women, regardless of race or ethnicity.

Risk Factors

  • For a woman of average risk, a screening mammogram is recommended every year for women age 45 to 54. But women should discuss with their primary care physician about starting screening earlier, especially if they have an increased risk of breast cancer.
  • If you have had an immediate family member, such as a mother, sister, or daughter diagnosed with breast cancer, you have an increased risk of developing cancer.
  • If you are under the age of 40 you should discuss with your primary care provider the possibility of starting screening earlier.

Screening Options

Many of Baptist Health’s Breast Centers offer 3D mammograms, or breast tomosynthesis, which is a more advanced X-ray of the breast tissue. A 3D mammogram releases the same amount of radiation as a traditional mammogram. It is of no greater risk to the patient.

“In the last two years, only about 65 percent of women over the age of 40 got a screening mammogram,” Dr. Richards said. “It is imperative that women of all races have access to mammograms and education about breast health.”

Dr. Richards encourages women to not only rely only on self-examinations. “I believe every woman should be familiar with the look and feel of their own breasts,” she said. “But mammography is an important tool. It does not prevent breast cancer, but when screening is done appropriately, it can find cancer in its early stages and lead to better outcomes.”

If you feel a lump in your breast, it is important to talk to your primary care provider or gynecologist and schedule a mammogram immediately. If you do not have insurance coverage, the nurse navigators at Baptist Health Breast Centers can provide information on programs available, as well as education on genetic testing and other services provided.

For existing Baptist Health patients, download the myBaptistHealth app now to schedule your mammogram easily using MyChart. Or, request an appointment on our website or by phone, by calling 1-888-BAPTIST.

For more information about breast health and mammography, visit our health library.