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Huff: Breast cancer survivorship: The power to live and share

Nicole S. Huff

Nicole S. Huff

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Updated: December 1, 2012 6:11AM



Breast cancer is the most common cancer among African-American women. Researchers found that African-American women are diagnosed with breast cancer at a more advanced stage, which negatively affects survivorship.

Other researchers have proven that African-American women are disadvantaged as breast cancer survivors compared with other races and are more likely to die from breast cancer.

The causes of the disparity are complex and likely include an individual’s treatment choice, poverty, poorer environmental conditions, a lack of access to health care and individual risk behaviors, such as diet, lack of exercise, family history and genetics.

In 2007, approximately 380 women died of breast cancer in Chicago; more than 50 percent were African-American women, according to the Chicago Department of Public Health. The latest published data indicated the death rate for African-American and Hispanic women with breast cancer in Illinois is 36 percent compared with the U.S. rate of 32 percent.

Moreover, the death rate for the same population through 2008 is
even higher in Kankakee and Cook counties, at 48.1 percent and 37.6 percent, respectively, according to the Death Rate Report for Illinois by County.

In most cases, researchers have not been able to provide an explanation for the high death rates among African-American women with breast cancer compared to other races. An epidemic among African-American women, the statistics are too alarming to be ignored.

Many African-American women suffer the disease in quiet desperation because they are afraid to share their story with family, friends, health care professionals or others.

Traditionally, for some African-American women, religion has been a source for health care more than medicine.

Healing begins when a woman openly discusses her symptoms and seeks medical treatment, such as a mammogram, as soon as possible. Women who delay receiving a mammogram or medical treatment after receiving the mammogram results possibly could die.

Breast cancer, however, is not the end of life for an African-American woman destined to live as long as she seeks medical treatment from health professionals.

Furthermore, a decrease in the disparity can be achieved with more exploration of the complexities related to social support challenges and spiritual beliefs of African-American breast cancer survivors.

The outcome could lead to improved quality of life for African-American breast cancer survivors or women with breast cancer.

There is emerging evidence that African-American breast cancer survivors have different support needs. Help make a difference in the community by sharing your perception about social support, your belief that God controls your health and your satisfaction with quality of life.

Share your experience by participating in the breast cancer study. The research results will contribute to the disease management process for African-American breast cancer survivors and possibly help explain the high death rates.

Contact the author, a doctoral student at Central Michigan University, at (610) 395-4524 or huff1ns@cmich.edu, to participate in an AA breast cancer survivorship research study by completing written surveys.



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