Sophia George wrote an important piece on the treatment of Black women with aggressive cancers such as ovarian cancer:
Women from the African diaspora are disproportionately affected by high-grade and aggressive ovarian tumours. In the United States, mortality due to ovarian cancer is decreasing overall. However, Black women continue to have lower survival rates and higher rates of recurrence than non-Hispanic white women. They are also more likely to develop resistance to chemotherapy.
Data from the US National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, show that the frequency with which various subtypes of ovarian tumour are diagnosed in Black women differs from that in white women. For example, Black women are more likely to have germ-cell and stromal-cell tumours, and less likely to have epithelial ovarian cancers.
Despite these differences, new approaches to clinical care — including genomic medicine — are underutilized in this population. Historically, Black women have been medically and scientifically marginalized, with persistent differences in disease causes and outcomes dismissed as a side effect of the socialization of race. More needs to be done to acknowledge the harm of this thinking and to improve the treatment of Black women with aggressive cancers.
The major contributing factor is, as you might have guessed, systemic racism and sexism (collectively known as “misogynoir“) in medical sciences. That doesn’t make the solutions easier but it’s important to call these structures out and break them down. That also means more active changes including:
- More specific cancer studies involving Black people of African descent
- More oncology experts with additional focuses on ovarian cancer, genetics, epidemiology, and psychology that also centre people from the Black disapora in and out of the US
- Further inclusion of Black scientists in universities, hospitals, and other medical research institutes