Mayor Thomas M. Menino and the Boston Public Health Commission launched the Pink and Black Campaign in 2005 to draw attention to the disparities in breast cancer survival faced by Black women. Black women are more likely to die after being diagnosed with breast cancer than women of other races. The campaign aims to empower Black women to “See your doctor. Get screened. Get treatment.”
In partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the Pink and Black campaign has been extended across the state. The campaign format and slogan have also been adopted in other states.
What are Health Disparities?
Health disparities is a term used to describe differences in health that occur among various groups. In Boston and across the country there are a number of racial and ethnic health disparities that are striking even when other factors, like income or education, are accounted for. For example, while White women are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer, Black women have a higher death rate, despite higher rates of screening.
In Boston, Black women over the age of 40 are more likely to have a mammography screening than White women. Despite higher rates of screening, Black women have a higher death rate from breast cancer than White women.
What can I do to help protect my health?
See Your Doctor
The best place to start is to find a doctor who you feel comfortable with. Having a primary care provider who can provide information on all of the important tests you should have is the first step in protecting your health. If you are not insured or don’t have a doctor, you can call the Mayor’s Health Line to get referrals and to find out more about insurance options and other health issues. Call the Mayor’s Health Line at 617-534-5050.
As with any health condition, screening remains the first step in prevention. Beginning at age 18, women should get a clinical breast exam (an exam given by a doctor) every year in addition to doing monthly breast self-exams.
Beginning at age 40, women should get a mammogram (a breast x-ray) along with a clinical breast exam every year. Boston’s Mammography Van seeks to reduce breast cancer morbidity and mortality, improve access to quality care, and address health care disparities for women of color in the City of Boston. Operated by the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, in partnership with the Boston Public Health Commission, neighborhood health centers and community groups, Boston’s Mammography Van provides year round mammography screening and breast health education to priority populations including women who are low-income, elderly, immigrant, and non-English speaking. For more information call 617-632-1974 or view the Mammography Van Schedule.
National and local data clearly show that screening and early diagnosis, while important preventive measures, are not enough to eliminate the racial disparities in breast cancer death rates. While a mammogram or examination can identify a suspicious lump or mass, neither test can establish with certainty the presence of cancer. Early treatment is the key to survival. Know your options—talk to your doctor.