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Education May Close Gap In Breast Cancer Mortality

Armen Hareyan's picture

"Breast cancer is not,and should not be, a death sentence for women, regardless of the color of their skin, insurance status or income," Karen Burns White, deputy associate director of the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center Initiative to Eliminate Cancer Disparities, writes in a Boston-Bay State Banner opinion piece. "But in order for us to close the gaps in our health care system, we must first understand the causes of these health disparities and then devise solutions," she adds.

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White writes that it is a "disturbing reality" that "women who come from a racial and ethnic minority group, and low-income women with little or no health insurance, are less likely to get screened, more likely to be diagnosed with late-stage breast cancer, and therefore more likely to die"from the disease. According to White, education is "the key to overcoming disparities in breast cancer screening and treatment." She says that to address these disparities, women, physicians and lawmakers must first"regularly engage women in our communities to learn about the importance of breast health, self-exams and regular screenings, and where they can go for help." She adds, "Second, we must encourage African-American women and other women of color in our communities to take part in clinical trials," which would "help to develop more targeted and effective treatment plans for minority women in both the short and long terms."

Third, White writes, lawmakers need to increase funding for patient navigator programs, which can "help women cut through the red tape of our immensely complex health care system and overcome language, cultural and other barriers." She continues, "Finally, we need to strive to achieve greater cultural sensitivity in the medical community," adding that a"provider's ability to understand, communicate with and care for patients from diverse backgrounds plays a vital role in a woman's breast health." White writes, "If we can work together to increase awareness in our communities,I know that we can close these gaps and save more women's lives" (White, Boston-BayState Banner, 4/17).