Breast Cancer in Women of Color
One of the first things people notice when they walk into my office at Bellevue is the glass table that has the word love etched into it in several languages. Not only does the table give a calming effect to my office but it is a reminder to me and my patients to take the time to value ourselves and put make our health a priority. As a breast surgeon at NYU Langone Medical Center/Bellevue Hospital I treat many underserved and uninsured women who have many competing priorities for their time such as finding work, family, housing, perhaps other domestic issues. Because I saw so many women presenting with advanced breast cancer, many preventable if they had had a mammogram, I started this annual conference with another colleague, Karen Schmitt, RN, who runs the Manhattan Cancer Screening Partnership for women who lack health insurance at the academic center I worked at previously and it is has grown every year over the past 8 years. We work hard to bring in speakers who will speak about new and innovative topics yet provide information and resources that will be useful to women who need screening, at increased risk for breast cancer or who are survivors.
Why is such a conference important? One in eight women in the U.S. will develop breast cancer in her lifetime, but low-income women and women of color are dying in disproportionate numbers because of the barriers that they face while fighting the disease. White women are more likely to get breast cancer in their lifetime than women in other racial groups, but African American and Latina women are more likely to die from the disease. White women over the age of 40 are significantly more likely to have had a mammogram in the last 2 years than women in other groups. Women of color are diagnosed at a later stage than white women, resulting in a higher risk of death and more disabling treatment. Access to high-quality health care, lack of insurance, and the concentration of polluting industries in communities of color and low-income neighborhoods all contribute to women of color suffering a disproportionate impact from breast cancer. Breast Cancer in Women of Color will focus on survivorship and will be a day of empowered learning and sharing for women at risk, previously diagnosed and those who care for them.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The program is free (but please register!) and will be translated into Spanish. If you are in the New York City area, I do hope to see you on October 12th!