Sheila McGlown, who was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer 5 years after her mother died of the disease, talks about her work with the Shades of Brown Foundation to advocate for, educate, and support African American women diagnosed with breast cancer.
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Sheila McGlown: Hi. I’m Sheila McGlown, and I’m at AACR 2018 in Chicago. And my poster today is on racial and ethnic disparities in breast cancer with a focus on African American women. And what I did was, me and some other -- maybe about five or six other African American women -- started the Shades of Brown Foundation. And what we want to do is go out and be a force in the community. We want women that look like us to know that we’re there for them, and we do know that racial disparities exist in African American communities.
Per statistics, we’re now on the same incidence rates as far as white women as far as getting breast cancer in 2018, but we’re dying at a 42%-faster rate than white women, and the reason is racial disparities. So, I just think it’s up to me, as an advocate, just to get out in the communities and talk about it, talk about why. Is it because of obesity? Is it because we’re not getting the same standard of care as white women? Is it because of we’re not getting the same medicine offered as white women to black women? Do we need to exercise more? So, it’s many, many different factors.
I was diagnosed 8 years ago with metastatic breast cancer. And, you know, clinical trials; why aren’t women -- black women -- participating in clinical trials? It’s so important, because we want a cure, and a cure for breast cancer is just not going to be all one cure. It’s going to be different cures. So, if we want this cure, we have to get out and ask our doctors, “Okay, is there a clinical trial out there for me?”
And a reason why I participated in many different -- well, the Metastatic Breast Cancer Project, which I sent them my saliva -- because I don’t want my daughter to get this disease. My mom died of metastatic breast cancer in 2004. Five years later, I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. So, it’s just up to me, I think, that I get out into community and talk about it and just share my story and share what I’ve learned through my research about African American breast cancer. It’s so important that we take care of our health. It’s so important that we learn about the different diseases, and that way we’re able to educate ourselves and we can advocate for our own health.
If you feel a lump, go to your doctor. Get your mammograms at 40. Mammograms are a diagnostic tool. That’s it. But it can lead to your doctor, if something is wrong -- we can’t be scared of mammograms. Do your self-breast exams. They’re so important. My mom found her cancer -- breast cancer -- through a self-breast exam, and she was 60 years old when she found hers. So, it’s just important for me as an African American woman, black woman, to get out there and just educate, educate, educate -- even educate all communities, Hispanic communities, Native American communities, Asian communities. Hey, we’re all in this together, and we’re stronger together.