Komen, community battling African-American breast cancer

Health

Inititiative to be kicked off Saturday in Northeast Portland

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Knight Cancer Institute researcher Rochelle Williams-Beliziare said breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in black women in the US. That’s why she joined the Susan G. Komen African-American Initiative Advisory Council.

The strategy is to go straight to the African-American community in Portland.

“Why are 42% of African-American women dying from breast cancer? It doesn’t add up,” she told KOIN 6 News. “Despite relative screening efforts and the incidents for the disease, for some reason African-Americans are more susceptible.”

She wants the community to provide input “and tell us what are the needs, what are the interventions, what are the services that can be provided so we can really hit and target this disparity.”

Williams-Beliziare is joined on the council by Oluchi Onyima, who said the need for this initiative hits home for her.

Oluchi Onyima, a member of the Susan G. Komen African-American Initiative Advisory Council, February 2020 (KOIN)

“We want them to understand and to know that breast cancer isn’t a death sentence,” Onyima said. “I have an aunt who died of breast cancer and it was really, you know, it was interesting because I didn’t even know, nobody in my family really even knew that she had the disease. She just went to the hospital one day. … Two days later she died of breast cancer. So nobody knew about it, nobody understood why she didn’t say anything or why she didnt speak up.”

Understanding why women aren’t getting the treatment they need is at the heart of the new approach.

“We really want women to feel empowered. We really want women to feel like they have a voice,” Onyima said. “We want women to feel like there’s options for them out there and we want them to understand that Susan G. Komen is there to provide that support.”

“If we really care and if we really want to do something,” Williams-Beliziare said, “we have to put the community first. We have to put them at the heart of it. That’s what I absolutely love about this initiative.”

Susan G. Komen is kicking off the initiative by celebrating survivors and forever fighters in the community at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Village Ballroom in Northeast Portland.

African-American Initiative Breast Cancer Survivor Celebration

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