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New Breast Cancer Study Shows Chicago's Segregated Healthcare System

By Margaret Lyons in News on Oct 18, 2007 5:47PM


The Metropolitan Chicago Breast Cancer Task Force announced yesterday that the mortality rate for black women diagnosed with breast cancer is 68 percent higher than for white women. And that gap has widened: In 1980, white women and black women had similar cancer mortality rates, but over the last 30 years, while white women's survival rate has improved, black women's has not.

According to the report, these disparities can't be chalked up to "biological differences"--the survival gap is only 11 percent in New York City, and 37 percent in the United States overall. So Chicago's 68 percent is a result of "a system of care in Metropolitan Chicago that has failed in the most basic of ways to preserve the health of Black women." Black women don't get mammograms as often as white women do, and the mammograms they get are inferior, as is the follow-up and medical treatment in general. The study is a fascinating if terrifying read.

The task force's major recommendation was that "cost must be removed as a barrier for screening and treatment." But that's not the only issue. Chicago needs more outreach and "culturally relevant" information so all women have access to accurate information about breast cancer. And even if every woman who needed to get mammogram decided to, Chicago doesn't have the capacity to screen everyone: With the current number of facilities, 384,000 women per year can get mammograms. There are 588,000 women between 40 and 70 years old in Chicago.

OK, time to remind everyone that breast self-exams are another important tool for early detection.