Advancing Equity in Cancer Care
While in Washington, D.C. for the Leadership Summit, I attended the “Breast Cancer Disparities–Advancing Health Equity in Cancer Care” workshop session. This session included an incredible panel of five speakers and a panel discussion after.
This session started with a review of disparities in breast cancer between white women and women of color. I was surprised to hear what a large impact race has on breast cancer outcomes, although I was not completely shocked. It is widely known that the death rate during childbirth is much higher in black and brown women compared to their white counterparts, but I did not realize the same discrepancies are true across a wide range of medical conditions. Factors including, but not limited to, access to transportation, medical insurance, and medical facilities as well as socioeconomic standing, culture, air quality, water quality, fresh food proximity, and redlining all lead to serious disparities in health care.
I was most surprised to learn that participation of black and brown women in clinical trials, the cornerstone of so many medical advances, is significantly lower than in white women. Drugs, including side effects, were mostly tested on white women with the expectation that they would work similarly in black and brown patients. It was very interesting to listen to one doctor talk about the differences between the two groups at a biology/cellular level and what a difference there is in the effectiveness of some drugs. This is extremely important to know because many people are taught to believe everyone is the same regardless of color. However, when it comes to medical interventions, there are many real and important differences, and people need to be treated as individuals.
I was also surprised to hear that patients of color are often referred to certain hospitals, while white patients are referred to another, continuing the cycle of inequity. Many of these disparities are systemic and need to be eliminated one at a time before larger change can occur. Hospital systems, doctors, researchers, donors, and patients themselves can all be part of the solution.
As I start my advocacy journey, I will keep these things in mind and make sure I am advocating not just for myself, my ethnicity, or my subtype of cancer.
I will advocate and fight for all, with a spotlight on people who may be disadvantaged and who need their concerns heard. I will be advocating for research for all types of breast cancer, advocating for all types of people to be included in clinical trials, and for access to quality health care for all women despite where they may live or how well-insured they are.
This session was eye-opening and I am glad it was included in the Leadership Summit. The more women we can bring together to fight for this cause, the better it will be for all of us and our children.
With deep appreciation to the Marilyn Lichtman Foundation, we were able to send ten members of our groundbreaking Emerging Leaders Program to Washington D.C. for the National Breast Cancer Coalition’s Annual Leadership Summit. The Summit is an annual gathering of breast cancer survivor-advocates from across the country and around the world. Participants attend sessions on the latest scientific research with presentations by respected researchers in the field, and hear from grassroots leaders from around the country, as well as prominent public policy experts. Here, we learn how one voice when combined with a chorus of others can change the conversation about breast cancer, a tremendously empowering experience. Upon our return, we invited our attendees to write about one of the most impactful plenaries or workshops they attended.
This story appeared in the Summer 2022 newsletter, Voices of the Ribbon.
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