Cultural, Literacy Barriers Contribute to Breast Cancer Disparities Among Women, Report Says
Economic barriers, too few providers and a lack of awareness about available services contribute to breast cancer rates in eight communities, according to a report by Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the Washington Post reports. According to the report, cultural beliefs and health illiteracy, particularly among low-income and minority women, add to the problem. The not-for-profit group released the report as part of a nationwide campaign that seeks to address disparities in breast cancer care.
The eight areas profiled in the report, titled "Breast Cancer Mortality Report: Closing the Gaps in Eight Communities," are Chicago; Madison County, Miss.; Moultrie County, Ill.; McDowell County, W.Va.; Edgecombe County, N.C.; Harlem, N.Y.; Washington, D.C.; and Wayne County, Mich., which includes Detroit.
In the district, the breast cancer mortality rate is 33.7 deaths per 100,000 people, nearly one-third higher than the rest of the nation, according to the report. In interviews of women in the district, the group found a distrust of the health care system among low-income, black women. Some black women said they forgo care because their partner believes that breast cancer is a "scourge" and that mastectomies would make them "unwhole," according to the report. Immigrant women often do not seek care because of legal status concerns or language barriers.
Other contributors to the breast cancer disparities in the district include inadequate treatment; lack of awareness of available services; a "confusing, disjointed system of screening"; and delays in service, the Post reports. The report recommends increased funding for a variety of outreach efforts, such as through faith-based organizations and training health care "navigators" to assist patients through medical appointments and procedures. "Advocates should consider a breast cancer mortality reduction package," the report states (Levine, Washington Post, 4/28).