A new Chicago report released this week offers concrete proposals to address the breast cancer mortality disparity between African American and white women. The Metropolitan Chicago Breast Cancer Task Force, which consists of more than 100 medical professionals and breast cancer experts, was formed in response to a study which concluded that the city’s African-American women are dying at a higher rate from breast cancer than white women because of barriers that prevent early detection and successful treatment.
Nationally, according to the American Cancer Society, the breast cancer mortality rate for black women is 33.8 per 100,000, but it is 25 per 100,000 for white women. In Chicago, according to the Sinai Urban Health Institute study, the mortality differential between blacks and whites was almost nonexistent in the mid-1990s, but now black women’s breast cancer mortality has risen to 40.4 per 100,000 while white women’s remains close to the national average, at 25 per 100,000.
The task force has proposed 37 ways to bridge the gap. Their proposals include providing free mammograms for uninsured women, increasing Medicaid reimbursements (in order to make mammogram centers more willing to serve poor women), demanding that hospitals report statistics pertaining to mammograms and breast cancer treatment, and funding education to avoid racial insensitivity at mammogram centers. Although these proposals are specific to Chicago, the recommendations may become models for other cities.