Helping Women Cope With Breast Cancer Diagnosis

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"Thereare great racial and socioeconomic disparities that make some women more likelyto lose their fight [against breast cancer] than others. This isn't just wrong;it's unthinkable," Hannah Linden and Carey Jackson, both physicians andassociate professors of medicine at the University of Washington write in a Seattle Post-Intelligencer opinion piece.

They add, "Beating breast cancer isn't a question of luck," butrather "a matter of diagnosis and proper treatment." They note thatdelays in seeking and completing necessary medical care can affect the growthand spread of cancer and lead to poorer outcomes and/or increases in treatmentcost.

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According to Linden and Jackson, "In the best of circumstances,the experience of cancer diagnosis, treatment and survivorship is a gauntletrequiring help from many sources at many points in time." They write thatmany women who are poor or minorities have not had success in dealing with thehealth system. They suggest that "patient navigators" can help suchwomen with appointments, paperwork and financial issues, as well as helppatients to cope with medication side effects and find other sources ofsupport.

Linden and Jacksonnote that officials in Washingtonstate are beginning to invest in patient navigation programs, which are"crucial to eliminate breast cancer among all women, regardless of raceand economic class."

They conclude, "Economic realities and cultural bias impact whether awoman lives or dies from this disease. But there are culturally competentalternatives. The current barriers to beating breast cancer are neither uniquenor insurmountable" (Linden/Jackson, Seattle Post-Intelligencer,2/4).

Reprintedwith permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report, search the archives, and sign upfor email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Weekly HealthDisparities Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of TheHenry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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