The breast cancer statistics for Black women are devastating and unacceptable. Black women are being killed by breast cancer at a 42 percent higher rate than white women, and Black women have a 31 percent breast cancer mortality rate—the highest of any U.S. racial or ethnic group, according to Breast Cancer Prevention Partners.
The breast cancer ecosystem is hard at work on researching new therapies to find a cure for breast cancer. That’s all well and good, but breast cancer for black women is a different and unique malady that deserves special attention.
As a very blessed survivor—or as I like to say, a “thriver”—I can’t let another day go by without taking some serious action. Eight years ago, I was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer, which grows and spreads faster, has limited treatment options, and worse outcomes. Black women have a 2.3 times higher odds of being diagnosed with this aggressive form of breast cancer.
I was given two years to live, but I’m still here, and I’ve made it my personal purpose, passion, and mission to raise awareness and fundraise for a cure. I realized God left me here to talk about breasts, to look after other people’s breasts.
Enter The Black Breast Cancer Alliance
I sincerely appreciate all of the great work being done to fight breast cancer, but the time is now to focus the energy of the breast cancer ecosystem on Black women. No one entity can accomplish this alone. Our work requires collaboration, partnership, shared resources, and consistent action.
This is why I am launching the non-profit Touch, The Black Breast Cancer Alliance with Valarie Clark Worthy, a registered nurse with 38 years of experience and a master’s degree in community health systems. We want to drive the collaborative efforts of patients, survivors, advocates, advocacy organizations, health care professionals, researchers, and pharmaceutical companies to work collectively. We want to foster accountability as we work toward the common goal of eradicating the disease in Black women.
TOUCHBBCA will focus on understanding what makes Black breast cancer different. We will probe to uncover, analyze and address the science, the physiological differences, the psycho-social factors, the social determinants of health, the genomics and genetics and the essence of what makes Black women experience a different and highly fatal disease. Our programs will focus on elevating early detection, advancing self-advocacy, driving clinical trial participation, and fostering real-world evidence.
We will also address other factors that make the the disease even more debilitating. For instance, Black patients too often are treated in under-resourced hospitals, have imperfect communication with health care providers and experience biased practices in the health care system.
The alliance’s first “product” is “The Doctor Is In,” a weekly live web series on the Facebook page of BlackDoctor.org on Wednesdays at 6pm ET. I will co-host the broadcast with Monique Gary, a surgical oncologist specializing in breasts. It will be a lively and heart-warming “girlfriend” conversation between experts and “Breasties” with the goal of providing relevant and relatable information on the Black breast cancer experience. Additionally, we will be launching a #BlackDataMatters campaign with some of our allies to encourage clinical trial education and participation.
We welcome your help as we take on this important challenge.
Ricki Fairley is the founder and president of the DOVE Marketing agency, and a member of NextTribe’s Advisory Board.