TAMPA, Fla. — The average risk of a woman in the United States developing breast cancer sometime in her life is about 13%, according to the American Cancer Society. At the same time, the ACS said right now, there are approximately four million breast cancer survivors in the United States.

This includes women who are still being treated and those who have finished treatment. Two local survivors say their goal is to spread awareness because they know how difficult the journey can be.

“I was diagnosed with stage two triple-negative breast cancer in 2018. As a matter of fact, it was the fourth of July,” said Selina King.

King said she noticed a pain in her breast, so she went to get a mammogram.

“After the biopsy, I was advised that yes, it was breast cancer. I went forth in a positive way because my mom died of breast cancer when I was 12 years old. Just hearing the word ‘cancer’ does something. But, with the positive surrounding that I had and my faith, I beat it in 2019. January, I rang the bell,” said King.

“Then my focus was, guess what, so many women just like me, and what can I do now that I have a second chance … another chance,” said King. That’s when she found the Sisters Network, Inc. King is now President of the Sisters Network Tampa Bay.

“It was for women of color. I needed to find out some women like me – what are they going through, what can I assist with, can I tell them what I went through to help them beat theirs,” said King.

King met other survivors like Jerry Norton, who is currently the Vice President of Sisters Network Tampa Bay.

“I must say, it is 18 years since I am surviving, and I have not had a recurrence,” said Jerry Norton.

Norton explained she wants to educate people in the Tampa Bay area about breast cancer because “there are just too many people who don’t know.”

The Sisters Network, Inc. is a national organization with more than 25 affiliate chapters, including here in Tampa Bay. The goal is to increase attention to the impact breast cancer has on the African-American community.

“The two biggest risk factors for getting breast cancer are being born female and getting older,” said Dr. Rachel Burke, who is a breast radiologist with Advent Health.

“I’ll tell you that overall, women of color are in general less likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer than white women; however, when they are diagnosed, unfortunately, there is a disparity in their survival rate,” said Dr. Burke. “There is a 40% mortality difference in Black versus white, which is unacceptable.”

When asked what women and doctors can do to address this problem, Dr. Burke mentioned having navigators, community outreach, and accessible transportation to sites and screenings. Dr. Burke also admits she’s not quite sure of the full answer.

She said it’s very complex because of biology, and there are a lot of different factors that go into making sure patients go to and have access to every point of care. She also said women, in general, are the caregivers – they take care of everyone else and put themselves last, but that one screening could save a life.

“You need to put yourself a little bit forward because if you don’t, it could cost you your life. Those few moments you took to go to the doctor could be the most important ones,” said Dr. Burke.

“If you find out you do have breast cancer, you are not alone. You do not have to suffer in silence. There are organizations like ours [Sisters Network] to encourage, inspire you, lift you up and be there with you the whole time,” said King.

“Cancer can do so much, but with us fighting…there is so much cancer cannot do,” said Norton.

Both King and Norton say the Sisters Network is for anyone – survivors, caregivers, and volunteers.