Access to Care: How Broward Health is Closing the Breast Cancer Disparity Gap
Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the U.S., according to the American Cancer Society. For every 100,000 women in Florida, there are about 116 women diagnosed with breast cancer, according to 2016 data from the U.S. Cancer Statistics Working Group.
Across America, the statistics are sobering for Black women. African American women are more likely to have late-stage breast cancer compared to white women. The odds get worse for Black women who are living in areas where poverty rates are high. Study after study bears out these grim statistics.
In a 2017, two university professors looked at five years of data and found that Black women were 1.3 times more likely to have late-stage breast cancer diagnoses compared to white women. For Black women who lived in an area where extreme poverty was higher, they had a greater chance – 14% more – of having a late-stage of the disease.
Black women are also more likely than white women to get triple-negative breast cancer, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This kind of cancer is aggressive and comes often recurs. Scientists are working to find out why and how to better treat triple-negative cancer.
“When the cancer lacks estrogen and progesterone receptors, such as with triple-negative, the receptors are not able to receive certain treatments such as Tamoxifen that help with treatment and to prevent recurrence of the breast cancer,” said Margaret Lott, M.D., an internal medicine ex-pert with the Broward Health Physician Group.
Black women are also at risk for being diagnosed with breast cancer at an earlier age.
“Twenty percent of Caucasian-American breast cancer patients are younger than 50 years of age, compared with 30% to 40% of African American breast cancer patients. What we also know is that women diagnosed at a younger age have higher rates of the breast cancer returning.” Overall, the risk of a Black woman getting breast cancer is about 12%, said Lott, who sees patients at Annie L. Weaver Health Clinic in Pompano Beach.
Broward Health’s team of caregivers is passionate about helping women in the com-munity get the access to breast cancer care to save their lives. One-way Broward Health accomplishes this is through a grant-funded program to help women.
“The Every Woman Matters program allows residents to be diagnosed at an earlier stage when chances of survival are higher and treatment is less toxic,” said Sarah Sabin, Broward Health corporate director of oncology services.
Since first getting the grant in 2005, Broward Health has provided more than 2,100 mammograms, about 1,300 diagnostic tests and found breast cancer in 53 women, she said.
“Through this program, our passionate healthcare team at Broward Health works to improve the overall health of and reduce the impact of cancer on our community,” said Pia Delvaille, manager of cancer services at Broward Health Medical Center.
There are things that Black women can do to help lower their chances of getting breast cancer. Lott said to ditch the diet sodas, stop drinking alcohol or at least drink less of it.
“A healthy lifestyle is important. Be sure to eat lots of fruits and vegetables, drink water, exercise daily, and manage your stress levels,” said Lott. “Breast cancer sounds really scary, but it is treatable disease and can be associated with high rates of survival if it is detected early. I encourage all women 40 to 50 years of age to talk with their doctor about having a screening mammogram.”
Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Cancer Society, Sisters Network Inc., Susan G. Komen, and National Center for Bio-technology Information.