New Data Shows High Rate of African-American Women Seeking Treatment for Advanced Breast Cancer

A recent assessment of data collected by cancer specialists at MedStar Washington Hospital Center found that a staggering number of African-American women seeking treatment have advanced breast cancer at rates that are almost double the national average.

July 1, 2014

Washington, D.C., July 1, 2014 – A recent assessment of data collected by cancer specialists at MedStar Washington Hospital Center found that a staggering number of African-American women seeking treatment have advanced breast cancer at rates that are almost double the national average.

Out of a total of 1,764 women treated for breast cancer from 2006 to 2011 at the Hospital Center, 1,449 had invasive breast cancer. Of those, 311 patients had stage III or IV cancer, with 86 percent who were African-American women and 169 or 54 percent lived in the District of Columbia. The data also revealed that 68 women or 40 percent were residents of Ward 5, which has the highest breast cancer mortality rate of the city’s eight wards.

More profound, physicians found that 97 percent of the Ward 5 patients with advanced breast cancer were African-American women with health insurance coverage. This noteworthy finding exposes a new type of health disparity, and is a key reason MedStar Washington Hospital Center was awarded a $100,000 grant from the Avon Foundation for Women.

“It is striking that women who have health insurance are presenting late with a disease that is preventable,” said Elmer E. Huerta, MD, MPH, director of the Cancer Preventorium at the Hospital Center’s Washington Cancer Institute. “This grant will allow us to promote breast health education, increase access and timeliness of patient care.”

To encourage breast cancer screenings, a breast health navigator/educator will be hired to conduct community outreach activities and support screenings for women, if they meet certain criteria. The navigator will also help ensure that women with an abnormal finding receive follow up diagnostic testing and treatment, if diagnosed.

“The grant will allow us to focus on the needs of our immediate community, and work to decrease the late diagnoses and high mortality African-American women experience from this disease,” said Sandra M. Swain, MD, FACP, medical director of the Washington Cancer Institute.

The American Cancer Society recommends routine yearly mammograms for women age 40 and older. National statistics show that breast cancer death rates have declined partly due to early detection through screening and increased awareness, according to the Society.

Avon-Foundation-Grant ​​​​​​​​

L to R in photo: Francisco Semiao, Washington Hospital Center Foundation, Dr. Sandra Swain, medical director, Washington Cancer Institute, Dr. Elmer Huerta, director, Cancer Preventorium, Washington Cancer Institute and Kevin Honeycutt, Executive Director, Avon Foundation

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Sylvia Ballinger
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So Young Pak
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