Black Women and Men with Breast Cancer is Focus of new Coalition

(Phoenix, AZ) — A new initiative is gearing up to increase awareness and understanding of the health care disparities facing African-American breast cancer patients. Although greater Phoenix is one of the largest metropolitan areas in the country there remains a void of information specifically focused on the unique circumstances Black patients face pathologically, culturally, and physically. The Coalition of Blacks Against Breast Cancer’s (CBBC) goal is to change that.

 “Our vision is that every person of Black and African descent who is a breast cancer survivor in the Phoenix area will have access to high-quality information, support, and resources to assist in their journey,” said Michele Halyard, M.D, an Oncologist at the Mayo Clinic and a co-founder of the Coalition. “As a result of the Coalition’s efforts, we hope that people of African descent will become more educated about breast cancer prevention, screening, and treatment.”

An initiative of The Links Incorporated, Sigma Pi Phi Gamma Mu Boule, and Mayo Clinic, the Coalition has launched a new website that offers vital information relating to prevention, screening, early detection, and treatment options.  The group will host a kickoff event, Friday, September 23, 2011, from 5:30–7p.m. at the AE England Building on the ASU Downtown Campus. The reception will feature survivors sharing their stories through a gallery of inspirational photographs and short narratives.

Tracey Walker-Banks, a Coalition member and two–year breast cancer survivor emphasizes her husband’s strength as she tells her story. “My husband, Howard, was Superman,” says Walker-Banks. “Even before the confirmation of the cancer, he was there supporting me emotionally, spiritually and physically. He never had a sense of panic and was always calm no matter the news.”  Walker-Banks says her husband, in anticipation of her baldness, shaved his head first, as did her brother Ronny, a Lieutenant Colonel in the US Army.

Gina Bowser, a 13-year survivor, credits her husband’s proactive research for helping indentify the right treatment.  “My husband, unknown to me, began researching the type of cancer I was diagnosed with and found a new unreleased drug that fit my diagnosis,” says Bowser. “The information my husband had found was significant and the oncologist was able to incorporate it into the treatment plan.”

The Phoenix population is approximately three percent Black and African Descent or about 300,000 out of Arizona’s four million residents. Within the Phoenix Metro area, the percentage of Black women diagnosed with early stages of the disease is lower than that of Caucasian women.

However, the percentage at which Black women are diagnosed at stage III or IV is nearly twice as high as the percentage of Caucasian women. Nationally, one in eight women, as well as a minority of men, will be diagnosed with breast cancer. The survival rate in African American women lags behind other ethnic groups.

The Coalition hosts meetings open to all survivors and supporters on the third Sunday of each month, 3-5 p.m., at the Wellness Community, 360 E. Palm Lane in Phoenix. Efforts to reach out to the community and build the network are being done through various African American organizations, churches, and civic and cultural groups. Collaborating organizations including Arizona Sate University, Greater Phoenix Black Chamber of Commerce, Center for African American Health, Susan G. Komen Phoenix Affiliate, and others.

This year CBBC will have a team in the Komen Race for the Cure taking place October 9. Members of Arizona’s African American organizations will comprise the team and walk under the CBBC banner. Interested parties should visit and click on the Komen Race banner to register.

About CBBC: The Coalition of Blacks Against Breast Cancer,, is the only group within the Phoenix Metro area that specifically focuses on men and women of Black and African descent diagnosed with breast cancer. The coalition is an initiative of the Phoenix Chapter of the Links Incorporated, Sigma Pi Phi Gamma Mu Boule, and Mayo Clinic. The CBBC was developed to increase education and awareness, to provide access to treatment options, and to highlight health care disparities facing African-American breast cancer patients. Collaborating agencies include Arizona Sate University, Greater Phoenix Black Chamber of Commerce, Center for African American Health, Susan G. Komen for the Cure Phoenix Affiliate, as well as many individuals and breast cancer survivors who share the CBBC goals.