Ronni Gordon is  a cancer survivor and long-time journalist who has written about her journey, about health and fitness, and about how she and others have prevailed in difficult situations. She brings to her writing a mix of personal experience with knowledge about the health-care system and how cancer patients can navigate it. A graduate of Vassar College with a master's degree in journalism from Boston University, she is a freelance writer who worked in daily newspapers for more than 30 years. She has been published in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Dana FarberCancer Institute magazine, and Cancer Today magazine. She lives in Western Massachusetts with her dog, Maddie, short for Madison (Avenue) in honor of her hometown, New York, and is mother of three grown children, Ben, Joe, and Katie

Ronni Gordon

Studies: African-Americans Disadvantaged in Cancer Treatment

Tuesday, 14 Jan 2014 02:54 PM

By Ronni Gordon

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African-Americans are at a disadvantage when it comes to getting treatment for breast cancer and finding bone marrow donors. An ongoing discussion about both problems is addressing ways to close that gap.
 
A breast cancer disparity study published last year in the journal Cancer Epidemiology found that in the nation’s 25 largest cities, African-American women with breast cancer were on average 40 percent more likely to die of the disease than white women.
 
Another study, published in July by the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that 20 percent of African-American women with breast cancer did not learn of their disease until it had advanced to Stage 3 or 4, compared to the 11 percent of white women who learned about their cancer in late stages.
 
Lack of access to good healthcare and a distrust of the medical system are among the areas that doctors and others are trying to address when it comes to breast cancer survival.
 
Similar issues are at the root of another area where racial disparities put blacks at a disadvantage — the lower number of African-Americans registering to be bone marrow donors.
 
Lack of awareness, distrust of the system, and genetic differences are key reasons for the shortage of black bone marrow donors, according to the website BlackBoneMarrow.com.
 
Bone marrow and umbilical cord transplants are life-saving procedures for people with leukemia and lymphoma and other blood-related cancers.
 
According to “Be The Match” (formerly the National Marrow Transplant Program), potential African-American donors make up just 7 percent of those on the registry (the lowest of any ethnic group), compared to 67 percent for Caucasians — the highest participation of any group. The likelihood of finding a match ranges from 66 percent for blacks to 93 percent for whites.
 
BlackBoneMarrow.com is dedicated to increasing awareness and getting more African-Americans to register as potential donors.
 
This issue was highlighted when “Good Morning America” co-host Robin Roberts received a bone marrow transplant in September 2012. The chance of finding a sibling match is 25 percent. Roberts was lucky that her sister was a perfect match.

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