In our culture we do not discuss breast cancer. It is seen as something that is at a distance from us and we think that it doesn’t have a chance of affecting us. This thinking is not only common within our heritage, but also in most African communities. One of the unfortunate outcomes of this assumption is that when such a cancer is discovered, it is often too late to do anything about it.
The National Cancer Institute defines breast cancer as a cancer that forms in tissues of the breast, usually the ducts (tubes that carry milk to the nipple) and lobules (glands that make milk). Breast cancer occurs in both women and men, although male breast cancer is not common.
As African Americans, why should we be more aware of breast cancer? One of the reasons why we should be more aware is that some studies have shown African American women are more likely detected with having breast cancer at later stages of the disease and are more likely to die from it. It is reported on www.netwellness.org that 31 out of every 100,000 African American women die from this disease each year compared to just 27 out of every 100,000 white women.
Dr. Jean Sindab, pictured on the left, led churches in the United States and worldwide in work for environmental and racial justice, including an end to apartheid in South Africa.
It was in December of 1998 when someone anonymously donated $2 million dollars to the New York Presbyterian Hospital. The donation was to establish The Jean Sindab African American Breast Cancer Project at Columbia University Medical Center.
Dr. Jean Sindab was born in Cleveland, OH in 1944. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in History at Hunter College, her Masters in Political Science and in International Relations, from Yale. Dr. Sindab went on to receive her Doctorate in Political Science also from Yale University. She died at age 51 after a year-long battle with breast cancer.
The Sindab Project’s main objective as stated on its website is to further understand breast cancer in African American women by funding scientific research projects. The outreach of the project has since focused on the communities of Harlem and Northern Manhattan of New York City. Women in hospitals, churches and the community are informed about the benefits of participating in breast cancer projects. Getting women to participate in breast cancer projects, however, is not an easy task.
Dr. Santella, Director of The Sindab Project said “building the trust of the community is one of the challenges we face.”
Getting a yearly mammogram and breast-self examination are the key steps to early detection which could possibly win the fight over breast cancer. Tsehainy.com urges you to speak about this cancer with your family and to ask your doctor any questions you may have.
For more information about The Jean Sindab African American Breast Cancer Project at Columbia University Medical Center, please contact Dr. Santella at 212 305-1996, or visit www.sindab.org.