Her mother and three sisters died of breast cancer, yet Nancy Lewis of Canton refused for years to have a mammogram. "I really wouldn't want to know," said Lewis, when asked why she avoided the exam.
The breast cancer mortality rate is twice as high in Madison County, Mississippi than the national average—52.9 deaths per 100,000. That's a staggering statistic in a state infamous for overwhelmingly bad health statistics. And, like many preventable diseases in this state and others, the numbers skew inordinately toward the poor and African Americans.
This morning, Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure announced a report and documentary that outlines their research in eight high-incidence locations across the country, and suggests steps for increasing awareness, access to screening, medical care and eradication. They also announced a 25-city tour, which includes Jackson (details pending).
The Komen Web site provides a multitude of resources for women, but the best thing you can do for your sisters, your mother, your women friends, is urge them to get a mammogram. Even if it's not an easy thing to talk about, it's easier than attending a funeral. Early detection saves lives—it's as simple as that.
As for 46-year-old Lewis, she finally got a mammogram after much urging, and the results were negative. Relief? I'd say so. And so does she.
There is a very big problem with the numbers from Madison County. They include deaths which occurred in Mississippi's only in-patient hospice in Ridgeland.
In lieu of a thoughtful investigation, the CL, and everyone else, for that matter, jumped to the conclusion that something terrible was happening in Madison County, and, as usual, the usual suspect of racism reared its ugly head.
- HDMatthias, MD
The "usual suspect" HD?
The reality is that disparities in health care based on income and ethnicity exist everywhere in the U.S. regardless of where you look. Where people are poor, they are uninsured and uninformed about health issues. Higher death rates are an inevitable result when people don't have access to health care. As the poorest state in the nation, Mississippi has the highest rates of a multitude of fatal--and completely preventable--diseases, including diabetes and heart disease. Breast cancer isn't an anomoly. And yes, fatalities are skewed toward African Americans, in Mississippi and elsewhere. See the Kaiser Foundation website for health stats nationwide.
and, as usual, the usual suspect of racism reared its ugly head.
And, as usual Doc, you act like you think there is no possible way that a single racist still exists in this world.
The idiocy of the response to the screaming headlines about breast cancer in Madison County was this:
No one bothered to ask the question why, if race is a factor in Madison County, isn't breast cancer highest in the rural counties with the highest percentage of African Americans and the least access to health care (for example, Holmes County)?
No one said, gee, Madison County is a relatively prosperous county with a higher percentage of blacks than other counties, but nowhere near the highest in the state. So what's up?
And the answer, most likely, has nothing to do with race, but is due to the anomaly of the Ridgeland hospice. But in the press's "rush to judgement" (note that one of the authors was Jerry Mitchell, an award-winning reporter famous for his in-depth reporting on unsolved, racially-motivated murders, but NOT a medical reporter), we, the public, are fed these nonsensical conjectures about cause.
But the truth, and legwork, have never interfered with a two inch headline.
- HDMatthias, MD