When Victorian Russell Walton, 42, in 2007 felt a lump in her chest and saw a dent around her nipple, she quickly knew what it was.
“I knew it was cancer,” Walton said. “I know my family history.”
Nevertheless, her doctor tested her and said she had no cancer. She insisted that he test again. and again. She made a total of four appointments. Every time the doctor tells her she doesn’t have cancer.
Walton finally secured an appointment with the doctor’s boss. This time Walton got the correct diagnosis: she had breast cancer.
“If I had been waiting longer, the cancer would have eaten me up,” said Walton, now 56. “It was already in my arms and lymph nodes. If I hadn’t been fighting for myself, I would have been dead.”
Instead, Walton survived, and now during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, she said she wanted people to stop automatically associating breast cancer diagnoses with death. Married and the mother of two sons, Walton is a two-time survivor of breast cancer and a health advocacy group dedicated to promoting awareness and research of potential hereditary diseases such as breast cancer. Founder of in the Genes LLC.
For her advocacy, Walton, Waldorf, Maryland, is featured in your Breast Cancer Surgery Toolkit at this year’s American College of Surgeons. video For breast cancer patients and their caregivers.
“Most people hear the death penalty when they are diagnosed with cancer,” Walton said. “I know African-American women who are fighting and prospering. I need to share those stories.”
Studies have been conducted to investigate how breast cancer affects black women differently, but race is also recognized as a social determinant that can affect the outcome of black women with breast cancer. I am.
Doctor holding Racial prejudice Or, according to a 2015 report published in the American Journal of Public Health, we believe that medical myths about blacks affect the care of colored patients.The black community is also historical Insufficient services provided by medical facilities.. in the meantime, Lack of trust Among blacks to care providers, it can prevent some people from seeking or continuing care. For Walton, these problems soon appeared when she began to seek care.
“In my case, race was a big factor,” Walton said. “I read a note on my chart that a pretty African-American woman spoke wisely.” I wondered what it had to do with cancer. ”
Diagnosis of breast cancer can be frightening.Breast cancer in women is the most commonly diagnosed cancer and overtakes lung cancer for the first time, according to the report. 2020 report According to the American Cancer Society and the International Cancer Research Institute.
Breast cancer diagnosis may seem even more scary to black women because Of the data. Their breast cancer mortality rate is 31%, the highest in any racial or ethnic group in the United States, and 42% higher than white women. Breast Cancer Prevention Partner (BCPP), policy and advocacy group. The incidence of breast cancer in women under the age of 45 is higher in black women than in white women.
Triple-negative breast cancer, which Walton was diagnosed with during his second cancer attack in 2018, is a subtype that is more aggressive and associated with higher mortality. According to the BCPP, African women are more often diagnosed in the United States than European women.
The reason why black women are more often diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer than other women is Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF). The Foundation’s Chief Scientific Officer, Dr. Dorraya El-Ashry, also emphasized the importance of knowing an individual’s medical history.
“It is very important to know the history of both the mother and father’s family,” El-Ashry said. “Then one can tell the doctor.” This is my family history. Do I need to have a genetic test? “
Walton was surprised to learn more about his family’s medical history when he talked about his cancer journey.
“My mother’s grandmother died of cancer, and they kept it a secret,” she said. “She died by cutting off both breasts. She woke up bloody. My uncle Rufus was a mother because the ambulance did not get off the dirt road when it rained. I carried my body to the edge of the road. “
The stories she heard helped to understand why some relatives did not trust their doctors and regarded cancer as a “family curse.” This relationship between the black community and medical professionals is an ongoing work and a tension between the two recently highlighted by the pandemic.
“We know that black women are less likely to participate in studies and less likely to participate in clinical trials,” El-Ashry said. You have to do it in a safe way. “
In an effort to increase participation in black clinical trials, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation is working with the Translational Breast Cancer Research Consortium, which has clinical trial sites nationwide, to increase representatives of racial and ethnic groups.
Foundation research is also looking at the crossroads of other illnesses and health conditions, such as diabetes and obesity, heart disease and their effects. Breast Cancer Outcomes in Black Women..
By bridging these care gaps and reducing the impact of these social determinants, “we can reach places where black women’s breast cancer can be treated more accurately and in a personalized way,” El said. -Ashry says.
Walton underwent two breast mass removals: chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and her double mastectomy. She had to shoot her belly and took medicine at another time, leaving the side effects of suicidal ideation. Chemotherapy also left her with type 2 diabetes.
She was twice told that she had a life expectancy of five years. Her family wrote her love letter to get over her. Some write: “Anyway, you fight everyone. Why don’t you fight cancer?”
In 2008, she and her husband started It’s in the Genes, although she was being treated after her first diagnosis. One way an organization can provide education is a PINKIE (or intentionally involved and continue to educate individuals) party where participants can be served lunch, receive gifts, ask professionals, and get mammograms. Is through.
Through her advocacy, Walton met Glenda Couser, who works as a navigator for breast cancer oncology nurses at the Medstar Washington Hospital Center... The patient navigation model was founded by Dr. Harold P. Freeman, a black physician who created a system to address disparities in access to timely diagnosis and treatment. Cousar works like a case manager, solving patient problems such as transportation assistance, financial assistance identification, and numerous form filling.
“For example, I had one 39-year-old woman who said she didn’t have the money to go back and forth between gas for treatment,” said Cousar. “Side effects such as fatigue often prevent me from working for 40 hours during treatment, which reduces my income. Life doesn’t stop — and the out-of-pocket cost is real.”
This is what Walton wants black women to know and that there are many new resources to help them treat.
“But we need to get the information there and share our story. Superman doesn’t come,” Walton said. “We must save each other.”
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