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Survey, Leadership Summit Examine Breast Cancer Disparities in Black Women



April 30, 2009



    Denise Espie



Survey, Leadership Summit Examine Breast Cancer

Disparities in Black Women


April 30, 2009, WASHINGTON, D.C. – Eighty-seven percent of Black women say late-stage diagnosis is the major factor contributing to poorer outcomes for Black women with breast cancer, according to a survey released today by the Black Women’s Health Imperative (Imperative).


While death rates for most cancers have declined overall, racial and ethnic disparities in breast cancer morbidity and mortality continue to persist. Black women under age 40 have a greater incidence of invasive breast cancer than white women in the same age range. Despite a 10 percent lower incidence, Black women have a 37 percent higher breast cancer death rate than white women. Triple-negative breast cancer – an aggressive and hard to treat form of the disease – is three times more common in Black women.


Additional factors that contribute to breast cancer disparities in Black women, according to survey respondents, include a lack of access to treatment and care (75 percent) and poor quality of care (65 percent).


“The results of the survey provide a snapshot of what Black women believe are the most pressing issues for them related to breast cancer,” said Eleanor Hinton Hoytt, president and CEO of the Imperative.


A link to the online survey was sent to 2,280 Black women across the country. More than 280 responded saying that fear (70 percent) and lack of access to quality care and treatment (69 percent) are major issues affecting Black women’s survival. Ninety percent of respondents believe that breast cancer awareness and education should be a priority for the Imperative. Advocacy and social support are also important priority areas according to women who participated in the survey.


“There remains a critical unmet need for breast cancer education among Black women. The findings from the survey show that Black women recognize the vital need for additional information while noting the absence of leadership to address breast cancer disparities among Black women,” said Hinton Hoytt.


A preview of the survey findings were presented at the Imperative’s first Breast Cancer Leadership Summit held earlier this month. The groundbreaking meeting opened with remarks from Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), a breast cancer survivor.


“There are great disparities in survival rates based on race, ethnicity and age. I am a true believer in the mission of the Black Women’s Health Imperative,” said Representative Wasserman Schultz. “We don’t want to alarm people but we can and we must reduce the number of young women dying from breast cancer. We can do that by passing legislation to educate young women and providers of the risks.”


The survey and leadership summit are part of the Imperative’s year-long effort to understand the scope and scale of breast cancer disparities among Black women. The leadership summit, held on April 3 in Washington, D.C., brought together a cadre of experts, survivors and organizational leaders to collectively examine the knowledge base on breast cancer among Black women and identify strategies for supporting national and community leadership on breast health policies and programs.


Included among these experts were two national organizations—National Coalition of 100 Black Women and Zeta Phi Beta Sorority and three community-based groups—the Center for Black Women’s Wellness in Atlanta, GA, Boston Black Women’s Health Institute and Philadelphia Black Women’s Health Alliance—that have agreed to serve as advisors to the development of a national agenda for mobilizing Black women in support of breast cancer education, early detection, treatment and survivorship for Black women.


“This is the beginning of a national movement for Black women. Our vision is for Black women across the country to be engaged in breast health as community advocates, leaders, clinicians, researchers and survivors,” said Hinton Hoytt. “We are fortunate to have the support of some of the leading researchers, clinicians and advocates in the country.”


To receive a copy of the survey findings, along with a fact sheet and an issues brief on Black women and breast cancer, please contact Denise Espie at 202-548-4000 or




About the Black Women’s Health Imperative

The Black Women's Health Imperative is a 501(c)3 nonprofit education, advocacy, research and leadership development organization that focuses on health issues that affect Black women disproportionately. It is the only national organization devoted solely to ensuring optimum health for Black women across their life span – physically, mentally and spiritually.



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