Fred Hutch Seeks African-American Breast Cancer Survivors For Focus Group

There’s a racial gap when it comes to how women experience breast cancer. Black women are 40 percent more likely to die from the disease compared to white women. And black women who survive tend to have lower quality of life.

Bridgette Hempstead founded Cierra Sisters, a Seattle-based organization for African American women facing breast cancer. She says there are cultural reasons for the differences in survival rates. Things like fear of discussing cancer, or assuming the doctor knows best.

“They’ve gone to the doctor, they’re presented with symptoms, the doctor says, I don’t think that’s anything. Let’s just wait, watch and see,” Hempstead says. “And too many times women have waited, they have watched and they’ve seen and some of them are not here.”

Hempstead is collaborating with Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center to better understand what African-American women need to improve their odds of survival. Too often the focus is on treatment. But it’s just as important to look at the emotional support after treatment, says Dr. Rachel Ceballos, who’s leading the study.

“I think most providers understand that and what role it plays but they’re limited in what they can do, and nothing else by time," she says, "so who can we get to help address these more emotional issues.”

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Ceballos and her collaborators are looking for breast cancer survivors, specifically African American women, and for oncology professionals for a focus group. They plan to use their insights to help create a culturally sensitive program for African American women.

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