Women of minority status have been historically underserved by the medical community and little research has been done to assess their health and experiences with breast cancer. The Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation, and its Army of Women program is looking to change this by getting minority women involved in breast cancer research studies that can help us have a better understanding of the disparities in care, as well as the psychosocial needs of this population.
We know, for example, that African American women under the age of 45 are more likely to get breast cancer and more likely to die from it than are white women under the age of 45. We also know that older African American women are less likely than white women to be diagnosed with breast cancer. However, they are more likely to be diagnosed with a later stage tumor, and they are more likely to die from their disease. The reasons for these differences in breast cancer incidence and mortality remain unclear. One factor is undoubtedly lack of access to quality care or not following up on abnormal test results. We also now know that African American women are more likely to develop tumors that we know are especially aggressive, even when they are small. These aggressive tumors tend to be high-grade, large, and estrogen receptor-negative, which makes them harder to treat. In addition, they have often already spread to the lymph nodes by the time they are discovered. How these factors influence treatment is a current ongoing area of cancer research.
The Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation, and its Army of Women program is committed to advocating for more research that focuses on minority women and more specifically, isolate the unique factors and experiences of social minorities when it comes to breast cancer. In order to do these types of research, we need minority women to step up and partner with researchers and take part in studies that are looking at these specific areas of interest.
The Army of Women program, funded by a grant from the Avon Foundation for Women, is recruiting one million women of all ages and ethnicities, with or without breast cancer, to sign up and participate in breast cancer research studies. This program is significantly focused on diversifying the recruitment pool for breast cancer research, so that findings are reflective of all women.
After signing up at www.armyofwomen.org, members are then contacted via email blast to participate in groundbreaking, breast cancer prevention research studies, as well as quality of life and psychosocial studies for women with breast cancer. These studies are being conducted across the country at well-established research institutions with researchers that don’t have access to a large poll of women. Army of Women volunteers can either sign-up for the studies online, or if they do not qualify, they are encouraged to forward the information to a friend or family member. Every woman over 18 is welcome to participate, whether a breast cancer survivor or someone never affected. And of course, the key is to have an Army of Women that reflects the diversity of our current population.
The Army of Women is currently helping researchers from across the country recruit volunteers for studies that are looking to diversify the recruitment pool and specifically look at minority women and breast cancer. The following studies are open for recruitment:
Latina Breast Cancer Initiative: In an effort to find the best way to help medical providers and Latinas diagnosed with breast cancer, researchers have developed a study to investigate Latinas’ experience with cancer. The focus of this study is on quality of life and the psychological adjustment after breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. You don’t have to leave your house to participate! Interviews can be conducted in English or Spanish. A total of 150 women are needed for this study.
Learn more and sign up for this study: http://www.armyofwomen.org/current/view?grant_id=587
Project CARE Study: This study is evaluating a stress management, relaxation skills training, and breast cancer education program for black/African American women with breast cancer. It is being conducted by researchers at the University of Miami who are interested in evaluating what effect this program has on quality of life.
Learn more and sign up for this study: http://www.armyofwomen.org/current/view?grant_id=500
Jewels in Our Genes Study: The research team is studying why some African American families have multiple cases of breast cancer. This will help to better understand if there are undiscovered genes unique to African Americans that may predict early breast cancer risk.
Learn more and sign up for this study: http://www.armyofwomen.org/current/view?grant_id=468
The MILK Study: Researchers are studying the breast cells normally found in breast milk to see if there are any epigenetic differences–which have the potential to be reversed–between women whose biopsies turn out to be healthy and those whose biopsies show a problem, such as cancer. Learning more about these epigenetic differences may eventually help researchers develop a way to provide women with information about their breast cancer risk.
The researchers have already enrolled more than 250 women, but most of the samples have come from Caucasian women. Since breast cancer risk factors differ among ethnic groups, the researchers are particularly interested in enrolling African American women, Latinas, Asian women, and other ethnic minorities.
Learn more and sign up for this study: http://www.armyofwomen.org/current/view?grant_id=375
Stepping STONE (Survivors Taking on Nutrition & Exercise): Researchers at Georgetown University have developed a program that they hope will help black/African American breast cancer survivors increase their physical activity and improve their diet. This study is looking at the effectiveness of the program in improving the quality of health behaviors. If the researchers find that the program works well, it has the potential to help black/African American breast cancer survivors throughout the U.S.
Learn more and sign up for this study: http://www.armyofwomen.org/current/view?grant_id=581
The Variations in Health Needs of Breast Cancer Survivors Study: The information gained from this research about the well-being and quality of life of lesbian and bisexual women with breast cancer will be used to develop programs and services designed to reduce health disparities. After the research team enrolls the lesbian and bisexual women, they will enroll heterosexual women to take part in the phone survey.
Learn more and sign up for this study: http://www.armyofwomen.org/current/view?grant_id=576
Interpersonal Therapy for Depression in Breast Cancer Study: The purpose of this study is to see which type of talk therapy is the most effective treatment for depression in women and men who have had a breast cancer diagnosis. It is open to women and men who were diagnosed with stage I-IV breast cancer more than six months ago. The therapy sessions will be offered in English OR Spanish!
Learn more and sign up for this study: http://www.armyofwomen.org/current/view?grant_id=542
“We need to go all the way—and stop this disease. If we could discover that HPV causes cancer of the cervix, and then develop a vaccine to prevent it, there is no reason we can’t do the same for cancer of the breast! It just takes friends, focus, and funds! But if we don’t do it, who will?” said Dr. Susan Love, president of the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation. “The Army of Women is at the forefront of changing the breast cancer research paradigm. We stand 370,000 strong and counting, and together we will see an end to breast cancer.”
The Army of Women helps recruit volunteers for a variety of studies nationwide. These studies focus on everything from assessing the quality of life for survivors to finding a better way to predict a woman's breast cancer risk, online questionnaires, among others. For the full list of current projects, visit www.armyofwomen.org/current.