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Health & Wellness a focus for 2022 Black History Month

02 February, 2022

“However, mortality data for all cancers combined indicates Blacks are more likely to die from cancer.”

That’s a line pulled directly from our 2021-2025 Nevada Cancer Plan in the section on health disparities. The “however” follows the fact that whites are more likely to get cancer. The “however” is the lead-in to what we know: cancer disparities—health disparities in general--exist in Nevada for Blacks.

This month, February, is Black History Month nationwide and in Nevada. This year’s theme is Black Health and Wellness, a nod to Black scholars and medical practitioners as well as the “rituals and initiatives that Black communities have done to be well.” The creators of the theme, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, also note that Blacks “must agitate against the interconnected, intersecting inequalities intentionally baked into systems and structures in the U.S. for no other reason than to curtail, circumscribe, and destroy Black well-being in all forms and Black lives.”

That’s some heavy lifting that will take time, many people working together, and many large systemic changes. We cannot tackle this alone, and are grateful to have many partners in our state working with us, or on other projects with the same ultimate goals.

But back to that line in the Cancer Plan. It was followed by some additional data, including figures that show Black women are more likely to die of breast cancer in Nevada, and Black men are more likely to die of colorectal cancer in Nevada. Those are real disparities that we can work to address.

This year and next NCC has received funding work on increasing cancer screening rates among populations disproportionately impacted by COVID-19—in Nevada, Blacks, Hispanics, rural communities and people with low socio-economic status.

We’ve chosen to focus a large portion of that effort on breast cancer among Black women. We’re starting with a statewide survey among all women to learn more about why some women don’t get screened, what barriers are keeping them from doing so, and what could be changed or improved to get them in. We are focusing on screening because we know that when women get screened with mammograms regularly cancers can be found earlier when they’re easier to treat and more often survivable.

Following that initial survey, we’ll be inviting Black women specifically to participate in a series of community discussions about breast cancer screening. We are looking forward to these conversations to learn more and gain insights into how we can work toward systemic, policy and environmental changes to improve breast cancer screening and survival among Black women.

We’re also working to improve colorectal cancer screening rates. Next month is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, so we’ll save some of that information for next time.

In 2021, our friend and partner Dr. Bayo Curry-Winchell shared her first mammogram by inviting a videographer along. Dr. BCW, as we call her, said she felt it was important for Black women to see another Black woman--a physician, no less--advocating for breast cancer screening and getting a mammogram. We couldn't agree more. Check out Dr. BCW's video below.

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