October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and this year more than 40 thousand women are expected to die from the disease. A new study found that's more likely to happen to African-American women than any other group, and the disparity is growing nationwide.
Saundra Robinson is all smiles sitting with her husband Marcus in their home. But 11 years ago, they were sitting in her doctors office, getting a diagnosis that would change her life.
"No one wants to hear you have breast cancer," Robinson says.
Doctors caught Robinson's cancer early during her annual mammogram. So she started treatment and is now cancer free.
The NOW National Correspondent Kumasi Aaron asked Robinson, "Do you think back about how important it was for you to be on top of this to be getting your mammograms?"
"Yes," Robinson replied. "Because it saved my life. Plain and simple. Early detection and education saved my life."
Many women don't have access to annual mammograms, and health care like Robinson. And a recent study funded by the Avon Foundation for Women found that may be the biggest reason behind the growing disparity in breast cancer deaths.
Researchers found black women were 43 percent more likely to die from breast cancer than white women.
"Without access without the funding without insurance the diagnosis is later the treatment is later and that's where the problem lies," Robinson says.
It's an issue Breast Radiologist Dr. Richard Obregon of Invision Sally Jobe at Presbyterian/St. Luke's Medical Center sees first hand in women, magnified he says by the effects of the great recession.
"A lot of them lost their jobs. A lot of them postponed screenings," Dr. Obregon says. "We are seeing women who haven't had a screened mammogram for 2,4,6,8 years."
That's why Dr. Obregon's says Invision Sally Jobe offers evening and weekend hours, and a pay scale for women who don't have insurance.
"Those are really the key ways that we can help get women and get them screened and have cancer detected early when it's highly curable," Dr. Obregon says.
For Robinson it's meant continuing to live the life she loves. Something she wishes for every woman, regardless of race.
"You need to speak up for your health," Robinson says.
Breast cancer continues to be the second leading cause of cancer deaths among women in the United States.
The study concluded there is a critical need to increase access to breast cancer screening and treatment services for African-American women. It cited several cities that have increased access and saw the disparity decrease.