Breast cancer is a disease affecting thousands of women across Dallas County. More white women will be diagnosed with the disease, and more African-American women will die from it, according to a 2015 profile study released by Susan G. Komen Dallas County.
For 35-year-old Amber Daniels of Lancaster, life and living is a special gift. "I’m very blessed,” said Daniels.
The young mother of two has had a tough year. During a routine breast exam in 2016, Daniels found an abnormal mass. That lump lead to an alarming diagnosis.
"I got the phone call,” Daniels explained, “…and they told me I did have breast cancer.”
Daniels, who is a medical professional at Methodist Charlton, says she always practiced routine breast exams. The 10-day wait for that diagnosis was stressful.
”When I was diagnosed, I was like I can’t give up,” she said. “I have to fight, and I have to be here for my children.”
Breast cancer has been a physical and emotional blow for Daniels. Chemotherapy made her ill. She lost her hair and had a double mastectomy. Having an aunt with the disease, and a grandmother whose a two-time survivor gave her perspective.
Amber says prayer gave her power.
"I knew that I couldn’t sit around, you know, and just wait,” she explained.
Breast cancer is a disease doctors say a growing number of women across Dallas County are facing. A recent Susan G. Komen Dallas County study examined demographics and disparities across North Texas. It shows white women are slightly more likely to get breast cancer, but African-American women are 1.4 times more likely to die from the disease.
“The first reaction was...Wow,” said Dr. Darshan Gandhi, the Medical Director of Oncology services at Methodist Charlton Hospital. He has been analyzing the cancer data, calling it mind-boggling for some southern Dallas communities.
"Looking at the disparity in not just the incidents of cancer, but the death rates of breast cancer, it just took me by an awe factor," Dr. Gandhi explained.
According to Dr. Gandhi, general incidents of breast cancer across Whites, Blacks, Hispanics and other groups in Dallas County are about 20 to 25 percent.
"If you look at the southern Dallas community, especially DeSoto and Lancaster, that number goes up significantly. Almost by 60 percent," Dr. Gandhi said.
The reality is even more surprising with late stage cancer diagnosis. Gandhi says the average for Dallas County is 35 percent.
For communities like DeSoto and Lancaster, it is almost up to 55 percent.
"That’s a huge disparity there," he said.
The Susan G. Komen Dallas County study revealed Dallas County does have a lot of resources to help patients with breast cancer. However, the majority of those services are concentrated in areas outside of southern Dallas. That means issues like access, transportation, and child care remain real barriers.
Amber Daniels has some advice for residents. She says "My main thing is to know you! Know your body.”
Daniels says she is using her story of early detection and beating breast cancer to help empower other women. She is leaning on her fiancé, family, and community of colleagues as her circle of support.
"You have to have your support system,” Daniels said. “You have to have that.”
Susan G. Komen Dallas issued grants to both Methodist Charlton and Methodist Dallas to provide free mammograms to uninsured or underinsured women, in hopes of finding and treating breast cancer sooner.
To read more about breast cancer in North Texas, click here to can visit Susan G. Komen Dallas County.