Statistics show that African American women are more prone to die of breast cancer compared to their white counterparts because of legal and linguistic barriers, lack of knowledge, non-existent insurance coverage, low financial resources, susceptibility to more serious forms of breast cancer and many other reasons that can add up to a big problem such as the mentioned disparity.
The only ways to solve these problems are through advocacy, research and implementation of programs.
According to the American Cancer Society, about 19,010 new breast cancer cases are expected to be diagnosed among African American Women in 2007 and an estimated 5,830 deaths can be expected in the same year. (2007, p. 5)
A study made by the American Society of Clinical Oncology shows that poor black women with breast cancer have more difficulty understanding and accepting their treatment compared to other racial and income groups; this poses that a solution is to continuously remind doctors and caregivers to assist these patients in understanding what they are undergoing so that they will also continue their treatments. (The Associated Press, 2006, par. 13-14)
Physicians may also be affected by their patients’ race. This issue also needs to be addressed so that African American women can receive equally successful treatments and proper information.
Breast cancer survivors also owe it to their community to be the best advocates for awareness. According to Yvonne Durham, a breast cancer survivor, “Patients need to talk to other women that have the disease and go into a support group setting. Where you lack understanding, search for it until you get it.” (Agadeesan, 2007 par. 40)
The Metropolitan Chicago Breast Cancer Task Force, a group that studied the issue for a year, released a list of recommendations aiming to address a mortality rate gap between black and white women with breast cancer.
The task force’s recommendations included no-cost mammograms for all uninsured women; no copayments or deductibles for breast cancer screening and treatment for those who are insured; an increase in Medicaid reimbursements to encourage mammogram centers to serve more indigent women; a web site and hotline that provide mammogram information; hiring three breast cancer survivors to inform others of the disease; funding for cultural sensitivity training for mammogram centers; a universal, transparent quality-control system for mammograms to increase early detection; linking mammography facilities in minority neighborhoods to a central diagnostic hub where experts could interpret mammograms; and the public release of quality data. (Ritter, Chicago Sun-Times, 10/18 cited in Kaiser Network, 2007, par. 1)
The American Cancer Society considers the year 2015 as their goal for eliminating disparities in cancer morbidity and mortality through advocacy, research, education and service. (American Cancer Society, p.21) Part of their work in advocacy requires them to coordinate with government people and lawmakers to help make policies that can alleviate the disparities.
The group is also doing its best to protect and increase funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s early detection program to help poor, uninsured and underserved African American women to attain the screening and diagnosis that they need to help them fight breast cancer.
The group also helps the CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, which shares information about cancers that affect black Americans. It also seeks to generate enough financial support for the “Patient Navigator” bill that gives grants to patient navigators who will plan specific educational and outreach programs that will help underserved communities get access to better health benefits.
The society also works diligently in maintaining, and if possible, increasing the government funding for more research on cancer which are done by the National Cancer Institute and National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities.
There are also many studies that are being done to fight the problem of breast cancer especially among African American women. Some colleges and universities have tied up with the American Cancer Society’s Behavioral Research Center to study the knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and risk perceptions of college students.
This can help create awareness of prevention strategies and symptoms that can begin at the onset of adulthood. (p.22)
White women have already benefited a lot from many psychosocial research programs that are basically informative and supportive while these patients are undergoing treatment. However, no such programs have been organized for black women yet.
A study is now being done on how to integrate the psycho-educational and psycho-spiritual models into a unique program for African American breast cancer patients who have indicated that there is much need for additional spiritual help in finding comfort and strength through the difficulty of having the disease.
There are also many small programs that have very specific aims which offer big help in the prevention and cure of breast cancer. One example is the “Body and Soul Wellness Program” which the National Cancer Institute has shared with many African American parishes.
The aim of the program is simply to promote better health by ensuring that its members take in at least 5 servings of fruits or vegetables daily through the reminders from their leaders and by having informative activities in church.
Another course called Look Good … Feel Better is a program that provides cosmetic offerings to women to help restore their appearance and self-image during chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
There are still many programs and groups that address the problem of breast cancer. The Center for Research on Minority Health based in the University of Texas is a comprehensive, outreach unit that aims to address the problems of morbidity and mortality in cultural minorities and medically inadequate populations.
The United States Conference of Mayors (USCM) also has a cancer awareness program that helps the racial and ethnic minorities become informed on how to detect and treat the disease.
The USCM also provides programs to help underserved communities to avail of treatments. The Cancer Prevention and Control Research Network (CPCRN) is a group of eight different research organizations that aims to hasten the scientific research on how to prevent and control cancer. CPCRN concentrates its efforts to the underprivileged communities and helps the public health sector manage the disease.
The National Medical Association (NMA) also does its part in representing the African American population of medical doctors and patients in the United States. To eradicate health disparities, the NMA creates awareness on healthy living among the black and minority population.
Another program of the CDC is called the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) which surveys the behavioral factors and lifestyle of Americans pertaining to the risks of developing dreaded diseases such as breast cancer. This involves monthly interviews and data collection on habits like cigarette smoking, regular exercise and cancer screening.
However, the survey is restricted to adults who own residential telephone lines. Another survey by the CDC is the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) that is formulated to gather evidences about personal demographics and health habits. NHIS conducts the study through computer-assisted interviews and reports these findings annually. Another study is being done by the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS).
The YRBSS focuses on the younger generation’s health habits and behavior. YRBSS’ research includes the use of cigarettes, dietary habits and daily physical activities that students from public and private institutions engage in. The information is collected using questionnaires that the students have to answer.
Breast cancer is a dreadful disease that can be hard to accept especially if one is not armed with enough information. It can cause depression and fear that can even aggravate the sickness.
The only way that African American women can really fight breast cancer is to become aware of its symptoms and educate them selves based on the many groups that are advocating research and studies on the subject. The disparities can be eliminated with hard work on research and the help of co-victims in finding ways to lighten the burden on each other.
Agadeesan, Raja. (08 October 2007). Racial Disparities Affect Breast Cancer Treatment.
Retrieved 22 October 2007 from http://abcnews.go.com/print?id=3702268.
American Cancer Society. (2007). Cancer Facts ; Figures for African Americans 2007-2008.
Atlanta: American Cancer Society.
Kaiser Network. (19 October 2007). Recommendations To Address Breast Cancer Minority
Disparity Between Black, White Women. Retrieved 22 October 2007 from http://
The Associated Press. (07 June 2006). Black women prone to deadlier cancer. Retrieved 22
October 2007 from http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/13167618/.