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Every month, I give money to Planned Parenthood to support the (increasingly endangered) reproductive health care it provides to women and men, including crucial breast cancer screenings. Several friends of mine raise funds for the Susan G. Komen Foundation each year, as part of Race for the Cure. Any personal effort to reduce the number of women–an estimated 1 in 8–and men who will face breast cancer is important…no…crucial. But while Susan G. Komen reported $400 million in earnings over the 2009-2010 fiscal year, far fewer dollars reach organizations with less visibility who work specifically to address the unique health needs of African-Americans.

Why does it matter? The need for awareness, preventive care, screening and effective, life-saving treatment is color blind, yes? Not entirely. A study published earlier this year in Breast Cancer Research and Treatment revealed that black women with breast cancer reach the disease’s late stages more often than white women, and their tumors are more likely to be larger and more biologically aggressive–a gap that could be ameliorated by breast cancer screening. Some studies have revealed that not getting proper follow-up care after an abnormal mammogram may be a factor in the lower survival rates among African-American women. We are also disproportionately plagued by other chronic illnesses (diabetes, hypertension) that affect overall health. And, in addition, a 2004 report by the Kaiser Family Foundation revealed that black women are more likely to be uninsured than white women and 30 percent of black women have “unstable” health insurance.

Clearly, African Americans face unique challenges when it relates to our health, including the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer. Organizations that address those challenges specifically, like The Denise Roberts Breast Cancer Foundation, an organization that targets minority men and women, are invaluable. These charitable organizations need the time and money of supporters even more than their bigger, more well-funded counterparts, and they are less likely to get it.

This is not a call for readers to abandon patronage of, say, the American Cancer Society, which does positive and important work. This is a reminder for those who can give to spread the wealth and to research and identify African American-specific organizations to benefit from their largess. This sort of equity in giving is not just a good thing, but for the black community, it could be a matter of life and death.

Recap:

To learn more and to donate, visit the Denise Roberts Breast Cancer Foundation website.

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