Delaware Raises Breast Cancer Awareness

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The Wilmington News Journal on Tuesday examined efforts in Delaware that seek to raise breast cancer awareness among black and Hispanic women. While black and white women are diagnosed with breast cancer at similar rates, historically black women have had higher mortality rates from the disease, according to the state Department of Public Health. From 2000 to 2004, black women were 34.6% more likely than white women to die from breast cancer in the state. The five-year survival rate for blacks was 77%, compared with 90% for whites during that time period. The American Cancer Society earlier this year found that U.S. death rates from breast cancer have slowed among black and white women, but blacks still have a 36% higher mortality rate than white women.

Black women often are diagnosed with breast cancer at later stages, begin treatment later, are more often indigent or uninsured, and "may see a doctor only sporadically and in places where the latest treatments are unavailable," according to the News Journal. Black women also are more likely to be diagnosed with a more aggressive and difficult to treat type of breast cancer known as triple-negative.

While Hispanic women are about 40% less likely than white women to be diagnosed with breast cancer, they often are diagnosed at later stages of the disease, according t0 ACS. Hispanic women also have a lower five-year survival rate than white women, at 83%. They also often have difficulty obtaining access to care and health care screenings, according to Susan Troyan, director of the Breast Care Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. She added that language barriers sometimes lead Hispanic women to forego health care.

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Various local programs have aimed to improve access to care for both black and Hispanic women. Efforts include no-cost or low-cost mammograms, educational programs, wellness efforts at churches and senior centers, support groups, and offering patient navigators. In addition, a program targeting Hispanic women trains volunteers to be medical interpreters.

At the Henrietta Johnson Medical Center, where 80% of the patients are black and 61% are women, staff members have taken steps to ensure that patients receive recommended mammograms and make routine phone calls to remind them to come in for exams.

"A doctor may give the prescription (for a mammogram) but they may not tell them how important it is. It does take the patient navigator's role to come and bring that extra education," Rosa Rivera, the center's CEO, said, adding, "Knowing the health disparities that exist, breast cancer is one of [the] things we've really pushed" (Bothum, Wilmington News Journal, 10/7).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. © 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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