“We know that right here in Atlanta, African American women are 45 percent more likely to die of breast cancer than their Caucasian counterparts and that is just unacceptable,” said Cati Stone, CEO of Susan G. Komen Greater Atlanta.
As the leader of the largest breast cancer organization in the southeast, based in Atlanta and servicing only the Atlanta-area, Stone says that her organization has prioritized addressing the disparity between African American women and White women when it comes to breast health equity.
“One of the initial things that we do is a lot of research to make sure that we know where the need is how we can invest into the communities that need us the most,” Stone said. “This type of research, both quantitative and qualitative is what led us to the discovery of the startling disparity in Atlanta among African American women and White women.”
While Black History Month is at its end and Breast Cancer Awareness month doesn’t come until October, every day is an occasion to discuss saving the lives of African American women and providing them with access to lifesaving resources, especially in Atlanta.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevent, breast cancer is the second most common cause of death among Black women. And in 2016, almost 8,000 new cases of breast cancer were reported in Georgia.
However, just going by the statistics, White women seem to be more affected by breast cancer than African American women, which Stone says is untrue based on the research conducted by Komen Atlanta.
“It’s true that more White women are diagnosed with breast cancer more than African American women but African American women are almost diagnosed at the same rate. And African American women are more likely to die from breast cancer than their white counterparts,” Stone said.
As a way to help combat this disparity between African American women and White women in regard to breast health, Komen Atlanta is dedicating funds raised at their upcoming 7th annual “Bubbles & Bling ” gala towards resources that will support African American women in Atlanta.
“‘Bubbles & Bling’ was created seven years ago to bring the Atlanta breast cancer community together to raise funds to take care of the women of Atlanta,” Stone said. “It has become a go-to party for the community because it’s really fun. Every year we have a different theme and our guests dress according to the theme. It’s a very good time while working on a very serious mission”
“This year’s theme is denim and diamonds. All the funds that we raise will be used specifically for our African American disparities work, because we’re on a mission to achieve health equity for African American women in Atlanta.”
For 2020, Komen Atlanta is holding their “Bubbles & Bling” gala on Saturday, Feb. 29 at The Fairmont in West Midtown, from 6:30-10 p.m.
All support and donations from the event will provide Komen Atlanta the resources needed to increase early breast cancer detection and improve survival rates for those most at-risk in the metro Atlanta community – African American women.
“The health equity that we do for African American women really is the priority of our organization and that’s why ‘Bubbles & Bling’ is so important because the dollars that raise there will all be reinvested back into the community to work on this problem that we all know exists, a problem that we think is unacceptable.”
Additionally, this year’s event will honor Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice, president and dean of Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM).
As the first woman to lead the freestanding medical institution, Rice is dedicated to the creation and advancement of health equity.
Prior to joining MSM, she was the founding director of the Center for Women’s Health Research at Meharry Medical College, one of the nation’s first research centers devoted to studying diseases that disproportionately impact women of color.
Outside of this annual event, Komen Atlanta’s resources are dedicated to supporting Atlanta’s women in breast health from early detection and prevention, all the way through treatment and if it comes to it, preparation for death.
“We start on the early detection side so it’s our number one goal to educate women about the need for breast help and we make sure that they have access to the services that they need to detect early, because we know that early detection is the key to survival. The earlier it is to detect the easier it is to treat and the better the survival outcomes are,” Stone said.
“We really start with education on early detection, providing access to screening mammograms, diagnostic tests to make sure that women are able to detect it as early as possible. You need to have your regular breast screening every year. At a minimum, every woman should have their first mammogram by the age of 40 and every year after.”
If a woman receives a breast cancer diagnosis, Komen Atlanta offers support services that not aid in treatment but also help in other areas like childcare and legal help
One of their unique services comes in the form of The Breast Cancer Legal Project, a partnership with Atlanta Legal Aid which helps women diagnosed with breast, specifically terminal women get their affairs in order.
“Unfortunately, many of those women will not survive the disease and we want to make sure that they have guardianship documents to take care of their children,” Stone said. “We also provide financial support for women in treatment and additional support for transportation, childcare and copays. We try to have a 360-view of the needs of these women.”
And according to Stone, Komen Atlanta partners with many other organizations to provide services to the women of Atlanta including major hospital systems, state and local legislative officials, general health organizations, civic organizations, small clinics, faith-based organizations, and other breast cancer organizations.
“If we’re going to achieve healthcare equity for African American women in Atlanta it requires more than just us,” Stone said. Our job is to bring the city together to, educate them that disparity exists, and then to get everyone motivated to row the boat in the same direction to make sure that we’re all working toward this common goal which is health equity.”
“And when we’re successful, not if, we’re going to be saving a lot more lives, right here in our own city.”