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Why Not Get a Mammogram?


I was diagnosed with bilateral breast cancer in September 2008. I lost a brother and sister to cancer months apart. I went through six months of chemotherapy and one year of a drug called Herceptin.
Since my journey through cancer and chemo the number of women diagnosed with cancer has been overwhelming. I made it through with a good report but many of the women I was affiliated with did not receive the same report.
Are African American women ignoring the “wake up call?” I listen to some women make the comment, “No one in my family has cancer?”

I believe that inappropriate statements can lead to misleading conclusions. It only takes one family member to be diagnosed to start the trend.
Celebrate Life08 is compiling a documentary entitled, “Why Some African American and Hispanic women do not get mammograms.”

This documentary will address myths as well as fears of low income and underinsured women.
Whenever I read statistics on African American women and Breast Cancer, the report usually reads the same.  (See bulleted facts below used by several researchers around the country in their reports:

  • Reasons for these disparities are multi-factorial, but include lower mammogram utilization among this population
  • African-American women are more likely to die from breast cancer than any other racial/ethnic group in the US.1 Nationally, African-American women have a 35% higher breast cancer mortality rate than white women (33.8 deaths per 100,000 versus 25.0, respectively) and in Chicago, the mortality rate for black women is 73% higher than white women (40.5 deaths per 100,000 compared with 23.4 respectively). This racial gap in breast cancer mortality has steadily increased over the past decade.
  • African-American women are less likely to get breast cancer but more likely to die from it compared to white women.
  • There are many barriers to breast cancer screening among medically underserved women. Financial and logistical barriers, such as cost, insurance, transportation and childcare are particularly relevant to this population
  • The reasons for the disparities in breast cancer outcomes are multi-factorial, and have been attributed to differential rates of screening mammography, delays in the diagnostic evaluation of breast abnormalities, biological differences, and inequalities in cancer treatment. Although the disparity in screening mammography rates between African-American and white women has narrowed, there are subpopulations of African-Americans who remain at high risk for under-screening, including the uninsured, women without a primary care provider and women of lower socioeconomic status.
  • The researchers found that African American women are less likely to have surgery, less likely to survive after surgery and less likely to survive non-surgical treatments.

How and why do we continue to read these statistics without asking the question why? There has to be a solution to some of these facts.

Is it possible that someone could identify similarities in the women’s histories and inspire social change? I have accepted the challenge by recruiting participants for a focus group on the subject, ““Why Some African American and Hispanic women do not get mammograms.”

The target audience is low-income, medically underserved African-American and Hispanic women. We will also interviewing women from targeted neighborhoods who have been newly diagnosed with breast cancer. The goal is to find out what their barriers are to getting treatment.

A short survey will be administered before each focus group, which contains questions about demographic information, knowledge of mammograms and self-breast exams.

An open discussion about their thoughts concerning mammograms will be facilitated. We will videotape portions of these discussions for the documentary.

4 Responses to Why Not Get a Mammogram?

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