Racial Disparity of African American Women in Breast Cancer Diagnosis, Prognosis, and Treatment

Graduation Date


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Document Form


Degree Name

Master of Science



Department or Program Chair

Eira Klich-Heartt, RN, MSN

Thesis Advisor

Eira Klich-Heartt, RN, MSN


During the course of a lifetime breast cancer will affect 1 out of every 8 women. The earlier the breast cancer is found the better the chances of treatment and survival (National Cancer Institute [NCI], 2009) Overall, African American women are more likely to die from breast cancer than any other racial or ethnic group. Diagnosis of breast cancer in African American women is less likely related to early screening mammograms (Peek, 2008). African American women are diagnosed at a later stage and grade (Lantz, 2006) which is also related to a poorer prognosis. African Americans are less likely than Caucasians to survive 5 years after a diagnosis with most forms of cancer, at any stage of diagnosis (Snowden, 2009). This study looks at why more African American women are not participating in breast cancer screening mammography, and the overall implications of why African American women are reluctant to participate in breast cancer clinical trials. How will nurses help to meet the needs of African American women in regards to breast cancer racial disparity? This focus group study will determine if increasing awareness of breast cancer will lead to an intention to increase breast cancer screening. Discussion identifying possible barriers and facilitators may help to encourage African American women to seek breast cancer screening as well as determining their thoughts about participation in breast cancer clinical trials.

Procedure: A pilot study consisting of a focus group of 9 African American women who are all over the age of 40, and reside in Northern California. The women will complete the Champion (1999) “Health Belief Model” scale as well as a modified version of the Mainous (2006) “Trust in Medical Researchers”

Results: More than 80% of the participants felt breast cancer would be an unlikely occurrence in their future. Less than 25% of the participants disagreed with the comment “Usually researchers who make mistakes try to cover them up”. More than 75 % of the participants felt medical researchers act differently toward minority subjects. Participants felt medical researchers unfairly select minorities for dangerous studies.


Further research is needed to determine the benefits of a breast cancer awareness program in the African American Community. The role of the Clinical Nurse Leader lends itself to the development of community educational programs, as well as developing community based research programs and education about the importance of minority participation in cancer research.