Breast cancer survivor shares her story to help rid the stigma of diagnosis in communities of color
Mable Hemphill says she doesn’t want another person to go through what she did. She says she hopes her story can inspire others to go get checked.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Research from the American Cancer Society shows nationally, the rate of breast cancer is higher among white women but the number of people dying from the disease is higher among Black women.
Part of the problem is stigma.
WBTV sat down with a breast cancer survivor who can attest to that. She says she hopes her story can inspire others to go get checked.
Mable Hemphill says she doesn’t want another person to go through what she did.
She’s African American and says people in communities of color may be hesitant to share their diagnosis.
Related: Survivors speak out about racial disparities in breast cancer
“I was diagnosed in August 8, 2019. My world came crashing down,” said Hemphill.
Her home is a reminder of her battle with breast cancer.
“I had to tell my kids, and I really didn’t want to tell them, and I was trying to figure out how can I do this.”
Hemphill says, in communities of color, cancer comes with a stigma. It can prevent them from getting important health screenings.
“Everybody has the fear of okay if I go get my mammogram – or if it’s a male - if he goes and gets all of his physicals I’m going to ‘find out’, so as long as I don’t know it doesn’t exist.”
But finding out early could mean a chance at survival.
Hemphill says, the problem is, many women in communities of color are raised to be the glue that keeps the family together.
“And it’s very difficult to come away from that mindset that we always have to be strong.”
Dr. Derek Raghavan works with the Levine Cancer Institute.
“Oftentimes, people in the Black community and the Hispanic community are less inclined to see a physician because of that stigma, they don’t want the family to kind of be branded,” Atrium Health Levine Cancer Institute’s Derek Raghavan, MD, PhD, said.
Raghavan says, a number of factors could contribute to the racial disparity in breast cancer: less access to health care, education, or even genetics.
Hemphill hopes by sharing her story there will be less secrecy surrounding a diagnosis.
“The healing starts as soon as you know and then you react,” Hemphill said.
Hospital systems are aware of the problem and addressing it.
There are programs at Levine Cancer Institute which are aimed specifically at underserved communities to help them with everything from education and screenings to financial and emotional support. Go here for more information.
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