Today, I attended the funeral of a friend who died from cervical cancer. She was young. She was educated. She ate right and led a Christian life. She was Black.
She also had regular pap smears.
All my friend’s good education, good eating, and praying couldn’t protect her from death.
Although I work in reproductive health, I’m not an expert on cervical cancer. So, I went home after the funeral after a long, late night train ride and at 1 am I googled cervical cancer. One site said Black women were twice as likely to die from cervical cancer than white women but more likely to get a diagnostic pap smear. Another site said African women were especially vulnerable to cervical cancer, compared to women from other developing countries.
Then I thought about breast cancer. Well, we all know in the US, black women are less likely to get breast cancer but more likely to die from it. We also know breast cancer is doing a lot of damage in the developing world – especially Africa. Then I moved on to thinking about abortions: which women get abortions and which ones die from botched abortions. The answer: black women. In the US, black women are more likely to get an abortion than all other women. Abortion is relatively safe in US but in most African countries, legal abortion is not widely available, resulting in many African women obtaining unsafe clandestine abortions and suffering from complications, including death.
Whether you live in LA, Lagos, or London, or, Memphis, Martinique or Mauritania if you’re a black woman, you’re more likely to die from these fairly common reproductive health issues.
Is anyone studying this issue? Does anyone care? That’s my next question.