Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What About African American Women Under Forty?

The No Surrender Breast Cancer Foundation's most crucial program is our Before Forty Initiative which educates young, African American women about their increased risk of developing the aggressive form of breast cancer known as Triple Negative Breast Cancer. Young Caucasian women also develop this type of cancer as well, but not in the numbers that African American women do.  We encourage all young women to get early baseline screenings, BEFORE the age of forty. By doing this, a woman's doctor has a breast blueprint to work from for future screenings. Any slight change can mean a breast cancer caught at its earliest, most treatable stage.

This is particularly important for African American women who are disproportionately diagnosed with TNBC before age forty.

This a battle we are fighting. We have to fight doctors, insurance companies, government task forces, the American Cancer Society and other so-called breast cancer organizations. It has not been easy. But, we are No Surrender for a reason. We will not give up.

Recently, we applied for a regional grant from the Komen organization for this life saving initiative. Even though they state on their website the stats of the increased risk of African American women developing this aggressive type of cancer while they are young, they turned down our grant request because it" is against their guidelines: screening should not begin until after forty" - for everyone.

Today, Komen released a statement that they are thrilled that the leading medical organizations have reaffirmed that screening should begin at age forty, and they call it a "victory for women." We beg to differ. It is most certainly not a victory for young, African American women. In fact, this will now make our fight harder as we try to help them get insurance coverage for their baseline screenings before the age of forty.

It is simple math. It is also a proactive approach to fighting and surviving Triple Negative Breast Cancer- a very difficult cancer to beat. Why are we fighting other breast cancer organizations over this? Why don't they care about young, African American women who are being told to wait for screening that may be too late for them to survive the disease? How is this possible??

Komen has a slogan out about how Ms. Brinker "made a promise" to her sister, Susan, that she would end breast cancer. I also made a promise to my best friend, Ferne, who found her tumor too late, at 41. She was African American and had Triple Negative Breast Cancer. I promised her I would make sure that her story was told and other women like her would not put off screening so they would not have to suffer and die the way she did.

I am keeping my promise. I know that Ms. Brinker has done incredible work across the world for breast cancer- but what about women like Ferne? I would like to point out, according to a biography, Ms. Brinker, a breast cancer survivor herself, found her cancer at age 37 on mammogram. Early screening, before the age of forty, was important to her and she has survived her disease because of early detection.

I only wish Ferne had that opportunity. I know I benefited from early screening and found my Triple Negative Breast Cancer before 40. I want the same thing for everyone. No matter what color they are or what socio-economic background they are from. Ms. Brinker, I hope you will reconsider your guidelines.

Until then, we are asking all of you to please help us win this battle and make the investment in our Initiative, because we now have to fight even harder to save the lives of the young women who are risk of developing a most aggressive breast cancer that will not play fair and wait for them to turn forty before it shows up.

Please donate - we need you now, more than ever.

click HERE to Donate
click HERE to learn more about the Before Forty Initiative

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