Last month, nearly 200 breast cancer experts – nurses, physicians, patient navigators and advocates – gathered in Miami for the 2016 Avon Breast Cancer Forum. Over three days, leaders from Avon’s access to care programs from all corners of the United States discussed cutting edge topics in treatment and services. From implications of the Affordable Care Act to addressing racial disparities in health outcomes, it was clear from the discussions throughout the Forum that women continue to face a myriad of barriers in their efforts to access high quality screening, diagnostics and treatment.
One key takeaway from this year’s Avon Breast Cancer Forum was that disparities in breast cancer outcomes exist across a variety of groups. New research from the Sinai Urban Health Institute and funded by the Avon Foundation revealed that though the incidence of breast cancer among Hispanic subgroups is similar, mortality rates differ. Mexican and Puerto Rican women are more likely to die from breast cancer than Central and South American women.
“What this research has uncovered has the potential to greatly improve individualization of care for Hispanic women with breast cancer,” said Bijou R. Hunt, author of the Avon-funded, Sinai Urban Health Institute study. “When healthcare providers begin to view the highly diverse population of Hispanic women as many unique groups – taking into account the ethnic identities, beliefs and cultures that could impact how they experience this disease – providers can better tailor their interventions and be even more culturally sensitive.”
Paola Giorello, a Uruguayan breast cancer survivor who lives in Washington D.C, spoke firsthand about her experience and reiterated the importance of providing culturally sensitive cancer care and support services for Latino families. Paola bravely shared the story of her battle with breast cancer in hopes of encouraging other Latinas and patient navigators serving vulnerable communities.
It was at 36 years old that Paola first felt a lump in her breast. She described how her primary care physician was reluctant to prescribe a mammogram because of her young age, which was below the typical recommendation of yearly mammograms beginning at age 40. After speaking with friends, Paola learned of Nueva Vida, an Avon-funded non-profit in Washington D.C., which helps Hispanic women who are affected by cancer. Upon enlisting in Nueva Vida’s support services, Paola was diagnosed with breast cancer and is currently being treated with the guidance of patient navigators every step of the way.
“You have to pay attention to your body, and be your own biggest advocate,” said Paola. “I knew something was wrong, and fortunately found Nueva Vida, who helped guide me through the whole journey. They helped me understand what was happening to my body, shared my voice in speaking up and asking lots of questions. Most of all, through their ongoing support, I never gave up.”
This panel and others at Avon’s Breast Cancer Forum demonstrated the need for new approaches to reach the women most affected by these disparities.
“Understanding where the greatest needs are in improving the lives of women with breast cancer is a fundamental first step to bringing about change in how this disease is addressed, particularly in the Hispanic community,” said Cheryl Heinonen, President of the Avon Foundation for Women. “As the company for women, Avon is committed to taking actions that matter most to women and that is why the Avon Foundation is passionate about identifying where the disparities lie so we can effectively shape and support programs that will have the greatest impact.”
The Avon Breast Cancer Crusade which launched in 1992, has placed Avon and the Avon Foundation for Women at the forefront of the fight against breast cancer. Today, Avon is the leading corporate supporter of the cause globally, donating more than $800 million to breast cancer programs for research and advancing access to care, regardless of a person’s ability to pay. To learn more, visit allforthebreast.avonfoundation.org