Breast Cancer Rates Increasing Among Asian American Women

Scarlett Lin Gomez
Scarlett Lin Gomez
Scarlett Lin Gomez

A new study from the Cancer Prevention Institute of California (CPIC), with Scarlett Lin Gomez as the lead researcher of the study, is showing an increase of breast cancer in Asian American women.  This is particularly troubling because the rate among other racial groups has stabilized.

The study looked at women in the San Francisco Bay Area of California, from 1988 to 2013, and included women from different Asian American backgrounds, including Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Filipino, South Asian, Vietnamese, and Southeast Asian and compared it with results from non-Hispanic white women.

The rate of cancer has been growing fastest in South Asian (Indian and Pakistani), Vietnamese, and Southeast Asian (Cambodian, Laotian, Hmong and Thai) women.  The common thread among these women seems to be that they are among the more newly immigrated to the U.S. (and those that are newly introduced to American diets/environment/etc).

A recent NBC News article on this topic talks about how one doctor told his patient that Asian American women didn’t get breast cancer.  But of course, Asian American women do get breast cancer and in ever increasing rates.  The woman’s sister Mai-Nhung Le, a professor at San Francisco State University, studied the needs of Asian American women and found that Asian American women reported more “unmet daily physical needs”, such as needing help with cooking, housework, and transportation. Le also noted the significance of the CPIC findings that indicated Vietnamese and Southeast Asian women are more likely to have breast cancer before age 50.

My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer back when she was about 50 years old, but it almost didn’t happen.  She went in for a mammogram, which apparently the normal image would not have caught her breast cancer. Since her lump was so far off to the side, it presented as pain under her arm.  It was only because she mentioned her under arm pain to the mammography technician that he took a separate side image that caught the image of the lump in her breast tissue.

At the time she was lucky in that they diagnosed my mother as stage 1, and she received a double mastectomy along with many rounds of chemotherapy, and couple of years later was declared cancer free.  Fast forward 15 years later, and her cancer returned, metastasized and incurable.  She passed away a few years later.  I’m grateful for the many years we got to have my mom because of the early diagnosis, but I’m still mad that we don’t have a cure yet, and we had to lose her, too soon to see her own grandchildren grow up.

If you’re an Asian American woman, make sure you understand the warning signs and that you get your mammogram.  Don’t let a doctor tell you that Asian American women don’t get breast cancer.

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Author: Tim

I'm a Chinese/Taiwanese-American, born in Taiwan, raised on Long Island, went to college in Philadelphia, tried Wall Street and then moved to the California Bay Area to work in high tech in 1990. I'm a recent dad and husband. Other adjectives that describe me include: son, brother, geek, DIYer, manager, teacher, tinkerer, amateur horologist, gay, and occasional couch potato. I write for about 5 different blogs including 8Asians. When not doing anything else, I like to challenge people's preconceived notions of who I should be.