In October 2006, the Sinai Urban Health Institute issued a disturbing report, looking at death rates from breast cancer for Black and White women here in Chicago. The report's title was Breast Cancer in Chicago: Eliminating Disparities and Improving Mammography Quality. It found that African American women in Chicago are much more likely to die from breast cancer compared to White women. African American women were diagnosed with breast cancer less often but still died at much higher rates from breast cancer compared to White women. And this inequality was getting worse.
Data from this report (similar to the data shown below) was published in February 2007 in an article by Hirschman, Whitman and Ansell in the journal Cancer Causes and Control, giving further details about the large differences in death rates from breast cancer in Chicago for African American women compared to White women. This paper looked at the differences between White and Black women in how often they got breast cancer, how often they died of breast cancer, whether their breast cancer was in its early or late stages when found and how often Black women compared to White women were getting mammograms. The full report is available at: Breast_DSP_Hirshman_2007.pdf (295 KB)
In response to the report, the Sinai Urban Health Institute and its partners organized the Chicago Breast Cancer Summit: A Call to Action on March 23, 2007 at Rush University Medical Center. The Summit was the first of a series of meetings chaired by prominent public health leaders to develop a Plan of Action that would provide recommendations on how to improve quality of breast care and reduce breast cancer mortality inequality in Chicago. Guest speakers included John Ayanian, MD from Harvard University and Marc Hurlbert, PhD, Scientific Director of the Avon Crusade and was attended by more than 200 people including breast cancer survivors, advocates and activists, several medical center CEOs, radiologists, oncologists, surgeons, epidemiologists, and foundations including the Michael Reese Health Trust, the Avon Foundation, and the Susan G. Komen for the Cure organization.
The summit received extraordinary media coverage, which included spots on more than a dozen radio and television stations and prominent newspaper articles.
The featured speakers discuss issues related to three key hypotheses that could explain the growing breast cancer disparity in Chicago. Hypotheses Explaining Breast Cancer Disparities
- Black women receive fewer mammograms
- Black women receive mammograms of inferior quality
- Black women have inadequate access to quality treatment once a cancer is diagnosed.