- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 26, 2007

The rate of breast-cancer deaths in the District exceeds the national rate, according to a report released yesterday by the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation.

According to the study, the breast-cancer mortality rate in the District is 33.7 residents per 100,000 residents, compared with the national rate of 26 per 100,000 residents.

The study, based on statistics from multiple sources several years ago, also found the incident rate of breast cancer in the District is 147.8 per 100,000, compared with the national rate of 124.9 residents per 100,000 residents.

Komen senior scientific adviser Dwight Randle said the lack of access and resources are among the main contributors to high breast-cancer rates. He also said large homeless and transient populations make the problem worse because women in those categories are among the least likely to be screened.

“Until we reach everyone, resources are not adequate,” Mr. Randle said.

The study also found black, Hispanic and poor women are among those who have the least access to treatment.

“This is a matter of national will,” said Komen founder Nancy Brinker. “We must fix the gap here so we can fix the gap around the world.”

The city partners with several local health organizations for its Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program, or Project WISH.

The program offers free breast- and cervical-cancer screenings to women meeting an income criterion. Women earning less than the guideline are covered by the D.C. Healthcare Alliance.

Emmanuel Nwokolo, chief of the D.C. Bureau of Cancer and Chronic Diseases Control, said the program helps, but many times there are personal reasons that keep women, particularly in the black community, from using the program, such as focusing on the well-being of other family members.

“One thing African-American women have not done traditionally is get early screening,” he said. “They tend to not put their own health up front.”

The study found in the District that 51 percent of black women compared with 61 percent of white women ages 60 to 67 reported having a mammogram in the past year.

Myrtle Washington, a 29-year breast-cancer survivor, said she was able to travel to get treatment and was assertive about getting it from now-closed D.C. General, but many women she counsels are not.

“I could go there at will and get waited on,” she said. “Most women don’t have that. Some patients — I had to push them.”

Miss Washington is now a “cancer navigator” at the Smith Farm Center for Healing and the Arts in the District. Cancer navigators are survivors who counsel women, preferably from their own communities, who have been diagnosed with breast cancer.

The rally yesterday started a 25-city campaign for better public breast-cancer treatment resources such as navigators and free screenings.

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