Better breast health will require support from entire community
By Guest Columnist JANICE MCKENZIE-CRAYTON, president and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta
African American women in metro Atlanta are 40 percent more likely to die of breast cancer than white women. While there are several possible reasons for this difference in survival – barriers to health care, genetic differences in tumors, and other risk factors – one thing is clear: We must and we can do more to turn around this tragic statistic.
I was first diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 42. My children were young, and I was young and fearful of what the future would hold for them and for me. But overall, I was fortunate. I had the resources to detect my breast cancer early and to treat the disease aggressively. I had a network of support from friends, family and doctors to help me win my battle against breast cancer.
Unfortunately, too many women of color in our community don’t have this same support system, access to care or the same positive outcomes.
After my third battle with breast cancer, I made a promise to inform others in our community – particularly African American women at higher risk of dying from breast cancer – about the importance of breast health. I urge our faith community to play a bigger role in encouraging women to get breast exams and mammograms. And I give my time and resources to organizations like Susan G. Komen Greater Atlanta, where the focus is on removing barriers to care because a person’s age, race or socio-economic status should never determine whether she survives this disease.
Komen recently convened a roundtable with local health, civic and government leaders to address breast cancer diagnosis and mortality rates for local African American women and explore strategies to achieve health equity. It became clear that there is desire from all sectors to change these statistics by enabling local African American women to detect breast cancer early.
Komen Atlanta and other health and government leaders will help make this happen through concrete programming, but they will need help in the way of support, education and funding. Impact and change involves all of us.