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School of Medicine Faculty Help Develop Survivorship Guide for African-American Women with Breast Cancer

Monday, October 26, 2009


School of Medicine collaborates with national African-American survivorship organization to produce patient education video to promote healthy lifestyle after cancer

Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine have joined with Sisters Network® Inc., a national African-American breast cancer survivorship organization, to produce a patient education video to help African-American women survive – and thrive – after being diagnosed with breast cancer.

The 30-minute educational video was produced to address the special challenges faced by African-American breast cancer survivors. It presents evidence-based guidelines developed by the Institute of Medicine in 2006 to help cancer survivors make a plan of follow-up care that promotes a healthy lifestyle and helps to prevent cancer recurrence.

The video was produced as part of a research study led by Renee Royak-Schaler, Ph.D., funded by Susan G. Komen for the Cure. A special screening of the video and reception will be held on Monday, Oct. 26, 2009, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the University of Maryland School of Medicine’s Health Sciences Facility II auditorium at 20 S. Penn St., in Baltimore.
“Developing feasible plans for self-care after breast cancer can be a daunting task, and this is particularly true for African-Americans, whose risk of recurrence and poor health outcomes is greater than for Caucasian patients. Many women don’t have a clear plan for follow-up care after their initial treatment, which can seriously affect their overall health and well-being,” says Dr. Royak-Schaler, an associate professor of epidemiology and preventive medicine.

Breast cancer deaths are 38 percent higher in African-American women than in white women. This disparity has been linked to lack of access to primary health care and being diagnosed at a later stage when the disease is less treatable. Many African-American women also have what is known as “triple-negative” breast cancer, which doesn’t respond as well to therapy.

E. Albert Reece, M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A., vice president for medical affairs at the University of Maryland and dean of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, says, “Through this unique partnership with the Sisters Network, our researchers have produced a wonderful educational video that not only provides valuable information, but also empowers African-American breast cancer survivors to work with their doctors to take charge of their own follow-up care.”

"Sisters Network is pleased to collaborate with the University of Maryland School of Medicine to increase breast cancer survivorship awareness," said Karen Jackson, founder and chief executive officer of Sisters Network, Inc. "Women need to know that survivorship is not only about defeating cancer, but adopting a healthy, active lifestyle that hopefully will prevent the cancer from returning.”

The video features African-American breast cancer survivors talking about their experiences and interviews with two faculty members, Stacy D. Garrett-Ray, M.D., M.P.H., M.B.A., a family medicine physician and clinical assistant professor of family and community medicine, and Cynthia L. Drogula, M.D., a breast surgeon and assistant professor of surgery.

“It’s imperative that breast cancer survivors communicate with their doctors and understand what they need to do to take good care of themselves. Eating a healthy diet and exercising are very important. Taking part in a support group can also be very helpful in dealing with all the unique challenges of life after cancer,” says Dr. Garrett-Ray, who is also medical director of the Baltimore City Cancer Program at the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center, which provides free cervical and breast cancer screening for uninsured women in Baltimore. “We hope that this video will prove to be a useful educational tool not only for African-American breast cancer survivors but also the doctors who care for them.”

As part of the study, researchers will show the video to members of 20 chapters of Sisters Network, as well as to doctors who care for breast cancer patients, to evaluate its effectiveness. The researchers also have developed a booklet with instructions to help moderators guide the discussion after groups have watched the video.
Watch the video here.

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