Buddy Check 7: Marshfield Clinic joins national project to address disparities in breast cancer care

Disparities in Breast Cancer Care 9/7/2021
Published: Sep. 7, 2021 at 3:18 PM CDT
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - Early detection is the message our Buddy Check 7 stories aim to get across, as the best chance in your fight against breast cancer. But there are some groups of people who find it difficult to get an early screening that could save their life.

“There is a lot of emphasis on disparity and equity as it relates to health care.”

One major gap is among minority populations. When it comes to breast cancer, Black and Hispanic women are at higher risk for the disease than white women. Dr. Adedayo Onitilo from Marshfield Clinic Cancer Care and Research Center said there are a number of reasons why. One is genetics.

“So you probably have more women of African American descent having what we call the triple-negative breast cancer,” he explained.

The other factors are missed screenings, late detection and decreased access to health care. When those factors add up, the outcome is grim. According to the American Cancer Society, Black women have a 40% higher death rate from breast cancer. The disparity is even greater among women under 50. In fact, young black women are dying at twice the rate of young white women.

“Central Wisconsin is not that diverse,” said Dr. Onitilo. “African Americans have less access to clinical trials and clinical research.”

Now, Marshfield Clinic is one of over 75 sites across the country to participate in a national project to address those disparities. The first part is an internal assessment of what each site offers to identify where there may be any gaps.

“The project is going to be focusing on Black and Hispanic, Latinx patients,” explained Deana Jansa, a research nurse at Marshfield Clinic Research Institute. “But the goal is to ensure that they’re going to address the needs of all underrepresented groups.”

The second part of the project is to go through implicit bias training to put a new training program in place that will incorporate the results of their assessment. “It’s important that we understand the impact that what we’re doing has on different types of ethnicities, because they may respond differently to treatment than other groups,” Jansa added.

“Being a part of this study showcases the type of vision and mission and the position of Marshfield Clinic in rural America, trying to promote equity in health care,” said Dr. Onitilo.

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