Komen launches initiative after study reveals stunning statistic about Black women and breast cancer

Published: Oct. 22, 2021 at 4:40 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Black women are 40 times more likely than white women to die of breast cancer.

That’s a stunning statistic.

Susan G. Komen is starting a new program to help bridge that gap. It’s called Stand for H.E.R., or Health Equity Revolution.

“What we know is Black women are dying more than white women because our systems have failed Black women and continue to fail them at every single step in their breast cancer journey,” said Natasha Mmeje, community program manager for Susan G. Komen Foundation.

Mmeje said it’s more than genetics or a lack of access to breast cancer screenings and treatment.

Komen did a lot of research and spoke with hundreds of survivors and metastatic patients.

“What we heard time and time again is there is a lot of implicit bias that exists in the doctor patient relationship. Sometimes patients weren’t being trusted or believed,” said Mmeje.

Here’s a closer look at the facts:

  • Breast cancer is the most common cancer among Black women.
  • Black women tend to be diagnosed at a younger age than white women.
  • The age for Black women to be diagnosed is an average of 60 years old, compared to 64 years old for white women.
  • Ten percent of Black women are first diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, when cancer has spread outside the breast. There is no cure for metastatic breast cancer. That’s compared to 5 to 7% of women of other races.

For Mmeje, these facts and this mission are personal. Her mom is a six-year breast cancer survivor.

“My mom, she found her own breast cancer. She found her lump and so being able to advocate for yourself and teaching others to be able to advocate for themselves is really important.,” said Mmeje.

Komen is working on a solution.

The goal of Komen’s new initiative Stand for H.E.R. is to train more Black patient navigators. These are mentors and advisors throughout the breast cancer treatment journey.

They’ll partner with hospitals to increase the quality of treatment in targeted communities.

Ten cities, like Chicago and Atlanta, have been identified right now. Cleveland is not part of the initial phase.

“This is a list Cleveland should be happy they’re not on,” said Mmeje. “It doesn’t mean inequities don’t exist in Cleveland. Let’s be clear about that. It’s just not as high on the scale as some other communities.”

In Cuyahoga County, at least 32% of women diagnosed with breast cancer are Black.

Komen is committed to making sure everyone has somewhere to turn through their patient navigation.

“This is everyone who needs care or may not know where to start in their breast cancer journey or where to get screening,” said Mmeje. “They should contact us, and we can get them connected in their community, including Cleveland.”

Cleveland Public Library has pulled together a list of recommended reads on this topic.

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