Research has found that Black women are 40 percent more likely to die from breast cancer than white women. We also have a lower five-year relative breast cancer survival rate when compared to white women.
Susan G. Komen, one of the country’s leading breast cancer organizations, is committed to changing that statistic with their Stand for H.E.R. - a Health Equity Revolution campaign. The campaign is a multi-layered effort including education, patient support, workforce development, research and advocacy, designed to address the barriers preventing many Black women from receiving high-quality health care.
We spoke exclusively with Omatola Gordon-Rose, Komen’s Senior Director of Health Equity initiatives, about Stand for H.E.R. and the work Susan G. Komen is doing to advocate for better health outcomes for Black women.
Gordon-Rose says the statistics around Black women and breast cancer deaths are frustrating. “We’re also diagnosed at younger ages and later stages and with the most aggressive forms of breast cancer. And that leads to our poorer outcomes,” she said. Although genetic factors contribute to the disparate outcomes, Gordon-Rose says racial inequities in healthcare can’t be ignored.
Quality Care Matters
Gordon-Rose says the healthcare system was not built with Black woman in mind. But Stand for H.E.R. is working to increase access to culturally competent health care in the Black community. She points out that facilities that predominately serve women of color are less likely to be affiliated with academic or private institutions. They are also less likely to offer digital mammography screening and have dedicated breast imaging specialists. “In the Black communities, we’re supported by community clinics and often have a poor quality standard of care,” she said.
Gordon-Rose adds that many high-quality healthcare facilities don’t accept Medicaid or other lower-cost insurance plans. And when they find facilities that will treat them, Black women say they often feel misunderstood.
Increased access to genetic counseling and testing services is another priority, which Gordon-Rose says can help Black people better understand their family history with breast cancer and contribute to improved outcomes. “We’re developing genetic counseling and testing education materials and partnering with facilities to provide free genetic counseling and testing in Black communities because it can be expensive and challenging to access,” she said.
As part of their mission to level the playing field, Gordon-Rose says Komen wants to ensure that more Black women are included in research around treatment options. “We’re not part of the clinical trials to see if the medicine will work for us. So medicine is being made for us and tested on people who don’t look like us. So how do we even know that it’s working?” she said.
Gordon-Rose says Susan G. Komen is committed to ensuring Black people have the same chance of survival as everyone else. “We want to be a voice for the person who can’t speak for themselves and who doesn’t have the knowledge to advocate for themselves. Stand for HER gives Black women a voice to address those barriers and get better breast cancer care and services,” she said.
If you need assistance or additional information, contact the Susan G. Komen helpline: 1-877-465-6636.