Dr. Harold Freedman and Others Address Issues for African-American Women with Breast Cancer
On March 26, 1998, The Judges and Lawyers Breast Cancer Alert (JALBCA) (NYC) co-sponsored a meeting with The National Council on Womenís Health, The Metropolitan Black Bar Association and The Association of Black Women Attorneys to present "The Black Womenís Experience with Breast Cancer"-Prevention, Diagnosis and Treatment.
The speakers were Annette M. Brown, MD radiologist, Harold P. Freedman, MD surgeon and Rosa Razaboni, MD plastic surgeon.
Dr. Brown who is an Assistant Professor of Clinical Radiology at SUNY Health Sciences Center in Brooklyn spoke about her experiences with women in the community seeking mammograms. She said there was a definite lack of awareness as to symptoms and reasons to come for a screening or diagnostic mammogram. Many women feel that if there is no pain, there is no problem. Many believe a family history is the main cause of breast cancer. There is also a strong tendency to self-treat and religious beliefs may preclude a breast self-exam. Some younger women have expressed fears that handling the breast may cause cancer.
Often older women are caretakers for children and others. They cannot take time out of their day to be screened. This is certainly a socio-economic problem and indicates a need for childcare at clinics and cancer centers, a concept that would probably benefit a broad spectrum of women. Many older African American women feel that they are disrespectfully treated. They may tend to feel that this is Godís will or His way.
Additionally, Dr. Brown pointed out that black celebrities have been slow in coming forward to speak out about this disease. Making a socio-economic connection, she pointed out that black yuppies behaved as white yuppies did around this issue.
The incidence of breast cancer in African American women under 50 is higher than for other groups. Some researchers believe that the disease presents with more estrogen negative receptors than in other groups. A new study shows that if the treatments are the same, then the results will be similar. (per Dr. Freedman)
Dr. Freedman discussed the idea that racial classification is not really biologically based. He said that any American with 1 black ancestor is classified as black. Culture is an important factor.
1/3 of black women are classified as poor and probably have less access to information on the disease. They may have less social support and have a risk-promoting lifestyle (smoking, unhealthy eating patterns, etc.) These women tend to be uninsured with little access to health care.
There has been a 6% decline in incidence of disease in white women with a 1% decrease among blacks.
Dr. Freedman told the audience, in response to a question, that there isnít really fibrocystic disease-it is now called a condition is does not necessarily lead to breast cancer.
Many new studies have begun as researchers finally turn their attention to the African American community and health issues. The studies shown here mostly deal with whether breast cancer behaves differently in African American women. Most studies say it is NOT physical. It is more likely to be the quality of care received or the delays in going for help or getting help.
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