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Business, Diversity & Inclusion, STEM

Breast Cancer Awareness: Some BWHS Stats and New Blood Test Clinical Trial

After five years and 300+ posts to A Bridge for Business & STEM, a blog started in 2012, I’m more than pleased that my writing has found an audience. However, whenever I am contacted by another journalist, writer, or blogger regarding one of my posts, that puts a wider smile on my face. This happened recently as a follow up to a post that was written about two years ago: Black Women’s Health Study Turns 20.

Just over a month ago, I was contacted by Kate Becker, a writer with BU Today. She explained that she was working on a news story about research on breast cancer disparities between black women and women of other races, and she was heavily relying on research from the Black Women’s Health Study (BWHS). She came across the above blog post and decided to reach out to me in an attempt to get my perspectives of being a participant in this ground breaking study.

We connected via phone a week later. Ms. Becker was curious to hear about my personal experience as a member of this special BWHS cohort. She also wanted to know how I made the choice to participate? and What I was doing in life (school/career-wise) when I received that first letter requesting my participation in this ground breaking study?, etc.

Answers to some of those questions were included in Becker’s report, Too Many Black Women Die from Breast Cancer. Why?. Other information and data provided in her report include:

  • Black women are diagnosed at a younger age (median age is 58 for black women, 62 for white women) and die at a younger age than white women (median age is 62 for black women, 69 for white women).
  • Black women have a 42 percent higher rate of death from breast cancer than white women or most other groups in the United States.
  • Black women are more likely than women of other races to be diagnosed with difficult-to-treat estrogen receptor (ER)-negative breast cancer.
  • The neighborhood a person lives in, the kind of work she does, and her ability to make ends meet all affect her cancer risk, diagnosis, and outcome.
  • More than 1,800 of the original 59,000 BWHS volunteers have been diagnosed with breast cancer since the study began in 1995.
  • BWHS researchers took their first “after breast cancer” look at the study’s data. They found a strong link between breast cancer mortality and type 2 diabetes, which also takes a disproportionate toll on black women.

Another recent breast cancer update for my readers to be aware of is news from the Mayo Clinic and GRAIL, Inc., a life sciences company whose mission is to detect cancer early when it can be cured, that they have commenced a multi-center clinical study, the STRIVE Study, to facilitate the development of GRAIL’s blood tests for early-stage cancer detection.

STRIVE is a longitudinal, prospective, observational study that will enroll up to 120,000 women at the time of their screening mammogram to train and validate a blood test to detect breast cancer. Additionally, the study will be used to develop a pan-cancer test to detect multiple cancers at early stages.

“Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in both developed and less developed countries around the globe. Despite many medical and therapeutic advances in treatment, approximately 40,000 women in the U.S. will die from breast cancer this year and many others will require treatment for advanced disease,” said Steven Cummings, M.D., Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology & Biostatistics (Emeritus), UCSF, and Senior Scientist, California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute, Sutter Health. “I am excited to be part of this initiative to apply new technology to the possibility of detecting breast cancer, and other cancers, at earlier stages.”

Mayo campuses in Arizona, Minnesota, Florida and Wisconsin will join Sutter Health sites in California to enroll upwards of 120,000 women who will give blood samples when they get their mammograms.

Sources Cited:

  1. Too Many Black Women Die from Breast Cancer, Why?, by Kate Becker for BU Today, http://www.bu.edu/today/2017/black-women-breast-cancer-research/
  2. GRAIL Initiates the STRIVE Study to Advance Development of Blood Tests to Detect Cancer Early, https://globenewswire.com/news-release/2017/04/20/962613/0/en/GRAIL-Initiates-the-STRIVE-Study-to-Advance-Development-of-Blood-Tests-to-Detect-Cancer-Early.html
  3. Mayo Clinic studying blood test to detect breast cancer, by Angela Gonzales, Senior Reporter for The Phoenix Business Journal, http://www.bizjournals.com/bizwomen/news/latest-news/2017/04/mayo-clinic-studying-blood-test-to-detect-breast.html?page=all



About Vi Brown

Vi is principal and CEO of Prophecy Consulting Group, LLC, an Arizona firm that provides business and engineering services to private and public clients. Prior to establishing her consulting practice in 2001, Vi worked with Motorola, Maricopa County Government, Pacific Gas & Electric, CH2M Hill, and Procter & Gamble. As an adjunct faculty member, Vi teaches undergraduate calculus classes and graduate level environmental courses. She is also a professional speaker.


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