02-19-2017  3:20 pm      •     

(NNPA) - Something once thought to be just a figment of African American imagination – racial discrimination at the doctor's office – might get a reality check soon in light of the new numbers.
That's the assessment of Georgetown University researchers, who found that Black women with sufficient health insurance and diagnosed with breast cancer had their treatment delayed twice as long as insured White women.
"We thought having health insurance would even the field and that insured Black women would have had the same rate of evaluation as insured White women, but that was not the case in our study," said Heather Hoffman, Ph.D., assistant professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services.
Looking at 581 women with breast cancer examined between 1997 and 2009, researchers found that delayed treatment was greater for Black women, but at the same rate as uninsured White women, who faced similar delays.
The test area included seven hospitals in the Washington, D.C., and was funded by the National Cancer Institute.
"Black women should be the focus of breast cancer screening outreach and follow-up because they experience greater delays in diagnosis and in treatment than White women, regardless of insurance status," said Dr. Hoffman. "We need to determine what other barriers contribute to diagnosis and treatment delays in insured Black women and all uninsured women."
Elizabeth Martin, a "Reach to Recovery" volunteer for American Cancer Society, said the study rings true, especially in her own case, where she had excellent health insurance, but at a young 41 years old, her own diagnostic delay could have cost her life.
Back in 1998, she was told her first mammogram came back normal. A few months later, she felt the three small lumps, and basically brushed them off as a Black female problem of fibroid tumors, not to be overly concerned.
"They examined me and told me that African American women have dense breasts and are known to have a lot of fibroids so don't worry about it. At that time I always heeded my doctor's words so I didn't worry about it," she said.
But, as the months went by, the lumps got larger.
Later, she went in for an unrelated checkup and mentioned the lumps again to her doctor, who attributed the increased size of the lumps to water weight gain during her menstrual cycle.
In recent years, several scientific studies indicate that African American women are at risk of more aggressive cancer starting at an earlier stage. They are half as likely as White women to have breast cancer, but twice as likely to die from it.
Many months later, she brought up her concerns again with her internist on another visit.
"I said my OB/GYN told me not to worry about it and he looked at me and said, 'No, we're going to worry about it,'" she said. "He sent me to a breast surgeon for a biopsy and the rest is history."
After trailing the state, holding workshops, and listening to women's individual stories, she doesn't believe that her own experience is isolated. And she believes that women must fight for their proper healthcare if they feel that lump.
Today, Martin is the American Cancer Society's Regional Council Chair for the Border Sierra Region, covering San Bernardino, Riverside, San Diego, Imperial Counties. She also goes into churches, wherever invited, to share her story and help other women in the community.
"My journey has empowered me to be my own advocate. My journey also proves that this article is truthful," she said.
By the end of this year, roughly 40,000 women are projected to die from breast cancer in the United States. At the same time, statistics show that women who catch their cancer early will have a 98 percent chance of living past that critical five-year survival window.
For more information on free mammograms and cervical cancer checkups for women under and over 40, contact the Inland Agency "Every Woman Counts" program at 951-241-8723.
To reach out to churches with breast cancer information, contact Martin at qemartin@san.rr.com.
For more information, see the American Cancer Society at http://www.acs.com.

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  • WASHINGTON (AP) — One month after the inauguration, the stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of Donald Trump's White House still is a hard-hat zone. Skeletal remains of the inaugural reviewing stands poke skyward. Random piles of plywood and cables are heaped on the ground inside crooked lines of metal fencing. The disarray outside the president's front door, though not his fault, serves as a metaphor for the tumult still unfolding inside. Four weeks in, the man who says he inherited "a mess" at home and abroad is presiding over a White House that is widely described as itself being a mess. At a stunning pace, Trump has riled world leaders and frustrated allies. He was dealt a bruising legal blow on one of his signature policies. He lost his national security adviser and his pick for labor secretary to scandal. He's seen forces within his government push back against his policies and leak confidential information. All of this has played out amid a steady drip of revelations about an FBI investigation into his campaign's contacts with Russian intelligence officials. Trump says his administration is running like a "fine-tuned machine." He points to the rising stock market and the devotion of his still-loyal supporters as evidence that all is well, although his job approval rating is much lower than that for prior presidents in their first weeks in office. Stung by the unrelenting criticism coming his way, Trump dismisses much of it as "fake news" delivered by "the enemy of the people" — aka the press. Daily denunciations of the media are just one of the new White House fixtures Americans are adjusting to. Most days start (and end) with presidential tweets riffing off of whatever's on TV talk shows or teasing coming events or hurling insults at the media. At some point in the day, count on Trump to cast back to the marvels of his upset of Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November election and quite possibly overstate his margins of support. Expect more denunciations of the "dishonest" press and its "fake news." From there, things can veer in unexpected directions as Trump offers up policy pronouncements or offhand remarks that leave even White House aides struggling to interpret them. The long-standing U.S. policy of seeking a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Trump this past week offered this cryptic pronouncement: "I'm looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I can live with either one." His U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, the next day insisted, "We absolutely support a two-state solution." Trump's days are busy. Outside groups troop in for "listening sessions." Foreign leaders call or come to visit. (Or, in the case of Mexico's president, cancel out in pique over Trump's talk about the planned border wall.) After the president signed two dozen executive actions, the White House was awaiting a rush order of more of the gold-plated Cross pens that Trump prefers to the chrome-plated ones used by his predecessor. Trump hands them out as souvenirs at the signing ceremonies that he points to as evidence of his ambitious pace. "This last month has represented an unprecedented degree of action on behalf of the great citizens of our country," Trump said at a Thursday news conference. "Again, I say it. There has never been a presidency that's done so much in such a short period of time." That's all music to the ears of his followers, who sent him to Washington to upend the established order and play the role of disrupter. "I can't believe there's actually a politician doing what he says he would do," says an approving Scott Hiltgen, a 66-year-old office furniture sales broker from River Falls, Wisconsin. "That never happens." Disrupt Trump has. But there may be more sound and fury than substance to many of his early actions. Trump did select Judge Neil Gorsuch to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, a nomination that has drawn strong reviews from conservatives. But the president is regrouping on immigration after federal judges blocked his order to suspend the United States' refugee program and ban visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries, which had caused chaos for travelers around the globe. Some other orders on issues such as the U.S.-Mexico border wall and former President Barack Obama's health care law are of limited effect. Trump says his early actions show he means to deliver on the promises he made during the campaign. "A lot of people say, 'Oh, oh, Trump was only kidding with the wall,'" the president told a group of police chiefs recently. "I wasn't kidding. I don't kid." But the Republican-led Congress is still waiting to see specifics on how Trump wants to proceed legislatively on top initiatives such as replacing the health care law, enacting tax cuts and revising trade deals. The messy rollout of the travel ban and tumult over the ouster of national security adviser Michael Flynn for misrepresenting his contacts with Russia are part of a broader state of disarray as different figures in Trump's White House jockey for power and leaks reveal internal discord in the machinations of the presidency. "I thought by now you'd at least hear the outlines of domestic legislation like tax cuts," says Princeton historian Julian Zelizer. "But a lot of that has slowed. Trump shouldn't mistake the fact that some of his supporters like his style with the fact that a lot of Republicans just want the policies he promised them. He has to deliver that." Put Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in the camp of those more interested in substance than style. "I'm not a great fan of daily tweets," McConnell said Friday, referring to the "extra discussion" that Trump likes to engage in. But McConnell was quick to add: "What I am a fan of is what he's been actually doing." He credits Trump with assembling a conservative Cabinet and taking steps to reduce government regulation, and promised: "We like his positions and we're going to pursue them as vigorously as we can." The challenge may be to tease out exactly what Trump wants in the way of a health care plan, tax changes and trade policy. At his long and defiant news conference on Thursday, Trump tried to dispel the impression of a White House in crisis, squarely blaming the press for keeping him from moving forward more decisively on his agenda. Pointing to his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, Trump said, "You take a look at Reince, he's working so hard just putting out fires that are fake fires. I mean, they're fake. They're not true. And isn't that a shame because he'd rather be working on health care, he'd rather be working on tax reform." For all the frustrations of his early days as president, Trump still seems tickled by the trappings of his office. When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie visited the White House last week to discuss the national opioid epidemic over lunch, the governor said Trump informed him: "Chris, you and I are going to have the meatloaf.'" Trump added: "I'm telling you, the meatloaf is fabulous." ___Follow Nancy Benac on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nbenac
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