Support group aims to bridge racial disparity in treating breast cancer

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by CARLA WADE

Bio | Email | Follow: @CarlaNWade

WFAA

Posted on March 14, 2014 at 7:10 PM

IRVING -- A simple, face-to-face chat can be a starting point in helping women survive breast cancer. That is especially true for women of color.

Leslie Williams founded the support group Survivors on Purpose.

"I try to be the pied piper and say 'Let’s talk about it. Let’s draw the conversation out,'” Williams explained.

She chatted with Sharon Hayes at Baylor Medical Center in Irving Friday morning inside a small office. They are both triple negative breast cancer survivors. It affects mostly women of African American, Asian, and Latino descent.

“You learn, not only to cope with that diagnosis, [but] what comes thereafter,” Hayes said.

In the year since Williams started Survivors On Purpose, startling new research has surfaced indicating that black women with breast cancer are still 40 percent more likely to die of the disease even as mortality rates for white women dropped in the last 20 years.

Dallas has the dubious distinction of having one of the largest disparities in survival rates by race, along with Memphis, Los Angeles, Wichita, Houston, Boston, Denver, Chicago, Phoenix, and Indianapolis, according to a study done by the Avon Foundation for Women And Sinai Urban Health Institute this year. The study is titled “The Racial Disparity in Breast Cancer Mortality in the 25 Largest Cities in the United States.”

Besides not always getting regular mammograms and catching the cancer early, Williams said often minority women aren’t aware of all the resources available to them.

"They are often thinking that if we are underemployed or unemployed that we don’t have access to proper testing and insurance coverage and mammograms," Williams said. “Now there are a lot of programs I can point them to and let them know that’s no longer a barrier."

More importantly, she tries to encourage them to become a part of the solution for treatments - and perhaps someday a cure - by getting involved in research efforts.

“And how we do that is we do participate in studies. We do participate in trials. We do become involved, so that we can have a say in what we do or how our health is being treated,” Williams said.

Saturday, Survivors on Purpose is having its first ever fundraiser, a chili cook off. Williams hopes to raise money to fund scholarships that will allow survivors to attend trials and studies.

The event starts at 11:00 a.m. and will be held at the Texas Army National Guard Arlington R.C., located at 1929 E. Randol Mill Road in Arlington.

You can find additional information at this link.

E-mail cwade@wfaa.com

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