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Henry Ford Health increases cancer screenings among minority women

by John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | August 29, 2022
Women's Health
Henry Ford Health increased breast cancer screenings among African American and Hispanic women.
Henry Ford Health upped cancer screenings in 2021 by 17% and 35% among African American and Hispanic women, respectively.

The increase within these patient groups stemmed from the healthcare system’s participation in the Return to Screening study, a collaboration between the American College of Surgeons and the American Cancer Society (ACS) that encourages patients to resume appropriate routine screenings and follow-ups after they declined during the pandemic.

For Henry Ford Health, African American and Hispanic women between 40 and 75 were a priority, because they generally have lower mammography rates. Black women are also twice as likely to be diagnosed with and 30% more likely to die from breast cancer than white women because of lower rates of surgery and chemotherapy, according to ACS.

Henry Ford Health hosted virtual focus groups with community members to identify barriers to routine breast cancer screenings.

“We initially expected logistical issues, such as the lack of transportation or childcare, to be common reasons for the decline in cancer screenings. What we saw more commonly than those responses was that many women were not aware they needed to be getting cancer screenings, as well as fear about what the tests might show,” said Donna Long, RN, manager of screening and tumor boards at Henry Ford Cancer Institute, in a statement.

To raise awareness, nurses held educational presentations at local congregations in Southeast Michigan to discuss what to expect during a mammogram, common fears and myths, and financial and transportation resources.

Bookmarks on breast cancer risk factors and screening were also distributed to community groups and clinics. Additionally, the health system and ACS hosted specific “Make Time for a Mammogram” days in 2021 to make it easy for women, 40 and up, to plan and schedule exams.

Several other factors can prevent minority women from routine mammograms. A 2016 study out of Thomas Jefferson University found that African American women had higher levels of medical mistrust, feeling that the information they were supplied with was limited to that provided to white women. Different treatment from others, fatigue, and loss of strength and femininity were also reasons.

The Return to Screening study included 748 accredited cancer programs in the U.S. Each site was encouraged to use evidence-based interventions proven to effectively increase screening rates, including contacting patients to schedule appointments, sending reminders, expanding clinic and screening hours.

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