COVID-19 has lifted the veil on existing inequities within our society, particularly for Black women affected by breast cancer. The Peter Gilgan Centre for Women’s Cancers at Women’s College Hospital, in partnership with the Canadian Cancer Society, is working to change this by applying an equity-oriented approach to cancer prevention and care that can be spread and scaled across Canada.
Leveraging an equity, diversity and inclusion lens is critical in removing systemic barriers for marginalized groups within our healthcare system and society at large.
“The Centre’s motto is giving every woman every chance to access the highest standard of cancer care no matter where she lives in Canada. To bring these words to life, we must apply an equity lens to everything we do,” says Elaine Goulbourne, administrative director at The Centre. “This includes ensuring that women who are marginalized – whether due to race, income or other factors – are able to access cancer screening and high-quality cancer care. As we continue moving The Centre’s mission forward, equity will always remain a central priority.”
While Black Canadians make up the third-largest minority group in our country, little attention is given to Black women and breast cancer in the Canadian context.
Historically, Black women are less likely to undergo genetic testing when there is a family history of breast cancer and are less likely to undergo breast reconstruction surgery after mastectomy. This population is largely missing from educational supports for breast cancer screening, prevention and treatment, and most supports and initiatives are not tailored to address the unique experiences that Black women face along their cancer journey.
To address the needs of this specific group, the team recently launched an online resource hub with Black women, for Black women. Led by Dr. Aisha Lofters, chair of implementation science at The Centre, this project has the potential to bridge the knowledge and awareness gap around options for breast cancer screening, diagnosis, treatment and survivorship, while highlighting important areas for further research and action in the Canadian context. The team is working with four co-creators and The Olive Branch of Hope to ensure that the final product is guided by those with lived experience. By creating a one-stop-shop for accurate, evidence-based and community-relevant cancer information, The Centre will reach a diverse community of historically overlooked and underserved Black patients affected by breast cancer.
“We are launching this hub because we recognize how extremely important it is for women to feel seen when going through the breast cancer journey,” says Dr. Lofters. “We wanted to create a resource specific to Black women who have too often been left out of previous breast cancer initiatives in Canada. We hope this hub can empower Black women across the country.”
This hub is made possible by funding from CanIMPACT, and from our donors – including monthly, legacy and individual giving – which gives the hospital the foundation it needs.
Click here to access Every Breast Counts – a resource hub for Black women in Canada who want to learn more about breast cancer.