Breast cancer affects women of all races and ethnicities, but unfortunately, it has disproportionately affected many women in the black community.

In 2011 it was estimated that 6,040 black women would die from breast cancer, a statistic that is significantly higher than the mortality rates of women of other races. However, this year has seen many breakthroughs that are monumental steps towards finding a cure.

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month here are several black women whose lives have been affected by breast cancer. Some of these women are survivors, some have passed away, but they all deserve recognition for their effort to battle this difficult disease.


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  • Hoda Kotb

    "Today" show host Hoda Kotb underwent a mastectomy and reconstructive breast surgery in 2007. Her story was documented on the "Today" show and she has since become an advocate for breast cancer awareness.

  • Syreeta Wright

    Grammy nominated singer Syreeta Wright passed away in 2004 from congestive heart failure, a side effect from radiation treatments for breast cancer.

  • Shirley Horn

    Celebrated jazz singer Shirley Horn battled both breast cancer and diabetes for many years. At age 71 she died from a massive stroke.

  • Roxie Roker

    Roxie Roker pushed boundaries as the character Helen Willis, one half of the interracial couple on the sitcom "The Jeffersons." She is also the mother of singer Lenny Kravitz. Roker died of breast cancer in 1995 at the age of 66.

  • Audre Lorde

    Audre Lorde was a Caribbean American writer and poet. In 1978 she was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a mastectomy. Unfortunately, she was later diagnosed with liver cancer and passed away in 1992. Lorde was the Poet Laureate of New York State from 1991 until her death.

  • Nina Simone

    Raspy songstress Nina Simone suffered from breast cancer for several years until she died in 2003 at her home in southern France. She was 70.

  • Wanda Sykes

    Comedian Wanda Sykes was diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) in 2011. Even though DCIS is a non-invasive form of breast cancer, Sykes decided to have a bilateral mastectomy in order to eliminate her chances of getting breast cancer.

  • Naomi Sims

    Naomi Sims was one of the first black supermodels. She appeared on the cover of <em>Life</em> magazine and was the first black woman on the cover of <em>Ladies' Home Journal</em>. In 2009 Sims lost her battle with breast cancer.

  • Diahann Carroll

    TV and film actress Diahann Carroll is best known for her role in the TV soap opera "Dynasty" and the film "Porgy and Bess." In 1998 she was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a lumpectomy and radiation treatments. Carroll's survival has led her to be an advocate for early detection and prevention of breast cancer.

  • Robin Roberts

    Robin Roberts first announced her battle with cancer on air in 2007. On June 11, 2012 she announced on Good Morning America that she had myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS). Fortunately her sister was an almost identical bone marrow match. This month Roberts was released from the hospital three weeks after a successful bone marrow transplant.

  • Pam Grier

    Pam Grier is best known for her role as Foxy Brown and Kit Porter in the Showtime series "The L Word." In 1988 the actress was diagnosed with breast cancer. She credits Chinese medicine for helping her beat cancer.

  • Ruby Dee

    Award winning actress Ruby Dee has been a breast cancer survivor for over 30 years. Besides fighting cancer Dee is also a civil rights advocate. She is a member of Congress of Racial Equality, the NAACP and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. She was also friends of both Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.

  • Minnie Riperton

    A year after her hit single "Lovin' You" went to the top of the charts Minnie Riperton was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1976. At 29 the singer underwent a radical masectomy and was given 6 months to live. Riperton became a spokesperson for the American Cancer Society. She passed away at age 31.

  • Hattie McDaniel

    Hattie McDaniel was the first black women to win an Academy Award. Her role as Mammy in the iconic 'Gone With The Wind' earned her the award for Best Supporting Actress. Shortly after McDaniel was diagnosed with breast cancer she became too ill to work. At age 57 she died of breast cancer.

  • Richard Roundtree

    "Shaft" star Richard Roundtree was shocked when he was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1993. For years after his diagnosis and treatment for breast cancer, Roundtree remained quiet about his illness. Five years later he revealed his battle with cancer at a celebrity golf tournament to raise money for a mobile breast cancer diagnostic unit. <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/Health/OnCallPlusBreastCancerNews/story?id=4028791&page=1#.UHjsv2nuXp8">Male breast cancer comprises only 1 percent of all breast cancer cases. </a>