LIMA — It’s a fact that more black women die from breast cancer than women of any other race, and one local group is working to change that statistic.
“If it’s successful, once this is determined early enough you can prevent it,” said Thelma Phillips, a breast cancer survivor and ambassador with Bridge the Gap, a group dedicated to changing the statistics. “That means you can have healthier women.”
The group is working to raise awareness about the mortality and race gap in women with breast cancer and “bridge” it by hosting an event on Dec. 7. The event will include education, statistics, free clinical screenings and a call to action.
Lima Memorial Health System has brought the group together, which includes survivors, relatives, activists, health workers and more, to address the gap and help with the event after receiving a $25,000 grant from the American Cancer Society.
Though more black women die from breast cancer, more aren’t necessarily diagnosed with it.
There aren’t more incidences of breast cancer in black women than in women of other races, but more deaths from the disease because of late-stage diagnosis, said Nora Fought, oncology program supervisor and patient navigator at Lima Memorial.
Some black women aren’t getting screenings and mammograms when they’re supposed to, once a year after the age of 40, and there are a variety of reasons why, she said.
“There are barriers, percieved and real,” Fought said.
Barriers could be access to care, a higher poverty level among blacks, lack of insurance or being underinsured or fear of the exam, Fought said.
There’s also the fact that black women tend to be the matriarch and caretakers of their families, who often “take care of everyone but themselves,” Fought said.
The Bridge the Gap group wants to eliminate every barrier and increase screenings by making more money available to uninsured women, providing screenings and more.
“The event is to empower, educate and inform [women] of all opportunities out there to take care of themselves,” Fought said.
“We’re here to save more lives,” said Jesse Purcell, American Cancer Society income specialist.