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Grassroots Services to the Underserved Communities

Howard Look is being honored as a White House Champion of Change for Precision Medicine.

Dorothy Reed

I am inspired and encouraged by the many great leaders in this country and to be selected to be a White House Champion of Change, I am honored.  Breast Cancer is an issue that has plaque United States for years and I am glad that research is on-going.

I became a breast cancer survivor and advocate in 1998, and began speaking at schools, churches and community events in an effort to educate women about the significance of early detection through yearly mammograms and breast self-exams.  I believe it is important to educate women of all ages so they are well-equipped with information.

Many proposals for research studies and clinical trials are approved and conducted each year to find a cure or improve treatment for breast cancer.  There are also many educational programs that are present to the community.   All of the effort is extremely beneficial because there are over 2.8 million women living after treatment with breast cancer. 

Recent statistic’s indicated that the breast cancer death rates are in decline. Statistics are somewhat confusing, because it is good news that death rates are in decline, however, the decline has been faster for women who have easy access to screening.  Women from poor areas now have the highest death rate from breast cancer.  Why?  Because they have less access to screening and treatment.  Some other statistic from are, “African American women are underrepresented in clinical trials and thus the influence of race on treatment and survival is unknown”;  “African American women have a 41 percent higher death rate then Caucasian women despite a lower incidence rate”.  And as the states, “the five-year breast cancer survival rate for African American women is 69 percent, whereas it is 84 percent for Caucasian women”

This is why Sisters Network of Central New Jersey (SNCNJ), the organization I co-founded, is so important.  SNCNJ is unique because we are a chapter of the first and only African American survivor run breast cancer survivorship organization.  All of SNCNJ project advertising and programs are geared toward African American’s using specific colors, language, ethnicity themes and outreach workers and volunteers.  To increase mammogram screening we use a “Shop Rite” card as an incentive once the woman completes her mammogram.  “Out of the box” thinking has to be something of value of ours.  To increase yearly clinical examinations, SNCNJ host a free Annual Health Screening for the community in partnership with local medical professionals equip with cutting-edge Breast Health information; also included are total cholesterol & HDL’s, Blood Sugar and Pressure and Lifestyle Education because these are also problematic in the community. SNCNJ heard firsthand the need that is in the community and developed the Breast Cancer Assistant Program which provides financial assistance to underserved and qualified women.  In 2009, SNCNJ partnered with The New Jersey Commission on Cancer Research to publish “The Courage to Trust a Clinical Trial”, specifically for African American women.

There is a cancer burden in the United States and I believe it starts with the underserved and African American women.  African American women must participate in more clinical trials and I believe that educational programs that address their culture would help build trust in clinical trials.  Proposals for research should begin prior to diagnoses; once a woman is diagnosed she inherits the 41 percent death rate and 69 percent survival rate.  I will continue to advocate and give women hope – with hope all things are possible.

Dorothy Reed is the co-founder/president of Sisters Network of Central New Jersey, committed to increasing attention to breast cancer in the African American community.