The breast cancer rate in the African American community was at 62 percent higher in Chicago’s low income neighborhoods versus more affluent areas of the region. In the African American community, it continues to be a major concern of health awareness, education and prevention. This month is recognized as Breast Cancer Month with pink being the official color of recognition throughout most parts of the world.
Susan G. Komen is the world’s largest breast cancer organization, funding more breast cancer research than any other nonprofit while providing real-time help to those facing the disease.
Just recently, Susan G. Komen held a roundtable discussion in Chicago aimed at improving breast cancer outcomes for African-American women. The discussion included patients, survivors, clinicians, business, academic, community and faith leaders as well as government officials. This is the fourth of ten planned roundtables that are taking place around the country.
It’s CEO, Dr. Judy Salerno was in town to meet many of the people that are instrumental in getting the message out to the community. “Chicago had one of the greatest disparities in breast cancer outcomes. Komen has invested in over $2 million in specific disparities work with Metropolitan Chicago Breast Task Force so we’ve made real strives,” Salerno said. “We have so much work to be done because there are still issues with inequity in this town. We under- stand that everyone should be entitled with the highest quality care available regardless of where they live in the city or where they live in our country or where they live around the world.”
With the help of the Chicago Metropolitan Breast Cancer Task Force, the program has helped narrow the gap within our communities since 2007. Both Komen’s $1 million grant and additional assistance by the Avon Foundation has allowed the organization to focus on the quality of care needed for patients to receive the best care possible.
Dr. Sheri Prentiss is the national spokesperson for the Komen 3-Day 60 mile walk and a breast cancer survivor. She isn’t the typical model of someone who’s not health conscious, doesn’t exercise or lives below the poverty line. An occupational and environmental physician, Prentiss did everything right—going for yearly mammogram check-ups and making sure she stayed fit and in shape. In 2008, all of this changed as she noticed a lump in her right breast through a self-examination. She was diagnosed with breast cancer months after her mammogram showed it was clean—with 15 rounds of chemotherapy, a partial mastectomy, and 33 radiation treatments later—she decided to participate in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day walk.
As a national spokesperson for the Komen 3-Day walk, the importance of prevention and awareness is crucial in delivering the message—the right way.
“I had no significant risk factors and I was 40 at the time. No history of breast cancer in my family, but yet and still, I’m a survivor. I think it’s important for women and men to see me and hear my story to appreciate that breast cancer knows no limits. No age limits, or health status,” Prentiss said. “As a physician and as a patient, I spend the rest of my days educating and making people aware that there are tools that are available to them that can save their lives. If you think that your children, mom, dad will be okay if you die. Not so—it’s a domino effect. Why would you allow yourself half of your life because either you’re afraid or you don’t have the support. Support is there.”
In attendance, Illinois Congressional Representative, Robin Kelly was on hand to show her support and the need to get the necessary education available for Black women in our communities. She shared with the intimate group of women that the disease runs in her family with both grandmothers having had breast cancer. “Too many African-American women are dying. I represent the Chicagoland area—the urban, rural and suburban areas but in the Chicagoland region, the rate is higher than the average. We definitely need to focus on that. Women are the backbone of our communities. This affects our communities, losing our women to breast cancers. This affects our moms, sisters, aunts, grandmothers—we could do better.”
Released in September, The Kelly Report emphasize the critical necessity of passing funding to support education, prevention and awareness of breast cancer to drive down these alarming numbers gripping the African-American community. Kelly said, “I want to make sure the funding goes where it’s needed, then I want to work with organizations, educating the population. That’s very important because you can have the funding and the access. If you don’t go and get the screenings, follow up with your treatment, or maintain a healthy lifestyle then it doesn’t matter if the funding is there.”