When it comes to black women and breast cancer, the news is often disheartening.
According to the Black Women’s Health Imperative, recent studies released have revealed that:
- Black breast cancer patients are more likely to die than white patients, regardless of the type of breast cancer they contract, raising the question of why black patients have poorer outcomes even when they have more treatable types of breast cancer.
- Nearly one in four breast cancer patients has symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder shortly after they receive their cancer diagnosis, and the risk is highest in black and Asian patients.
- Black breast cancer survivors seem more likely to develop heart failure than other women. The increased risk among black women remained even after the researchers accounted for other factors, including age, high blood pressure, diabetes and the use of chemotherapy drugs or medicines to protect the heart — called cardioprotective drugs.
Black women, overall, are less likely to get breast cancer, but when they do they are more likely to die from the disease and often are likely to get it at an earlier age and contract more forms of the disease that are more resistant to traditional treatment.
Medical experts are using October, which is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, to encourage women to know their family history and risk profile, to perform monthly self-breast exams and to see their doctors for clinical exams and schedule mammograms.
In an article she co-authored for the Journal of Nursing Scholarship, Dr. Janice Phillips, an associate professor at Rush University College of Nursing, and Marlene Z. Cohen, PhD, RN, FAAN, from the University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha wrote that “young women at high risk for breast cancer have unique emotional and support needs that are shaped by stage in life, relationships with significant others, their faith, and interactions with the healthcare delivery system.”
The importance of the findings, according to the article, is that healthcare professionals need to provide timely and sensitive approaches to care when young women present with breast health concerns or abnormal breast findings.
“It was clear that education and support is needed for these women and their families, as well as for nurses who care for and counsel high-risk populations,” Phillips said in a press release that announced the results of the study.
Phillips, who has a PhD in public nursing, has taken a special interest in addressing breast cancer issues, particularly, and health disparities, generally . While an executive board member for the Metropolitan Chicago Breast Cancer Task Force and Chair of Public Policy for the Chicagoland Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, Phillips worked with Illinois lawmakers and cancers advocates to help pass “The Breast Cancer Reduction Act of 2008.”
According to Nurse.com, Phillips, who spent some time as program director at the National Institute of Nursing Research, oversaw health disparities research at 20 academic partnership centers, as well as the implementation of more than 100 research and career development awards in women’s health, adolescent health, health promotion, oncology and health disparities.
“I helped develop a body of evidence around disparities in healthcare and sound evidence-based interventions to make a difference,” she said. “We are well on our way to linking that to policy changes.”