Cancer detection: Carol Estwing Ferrans

THE PROBLEM:

At its peak, Chicago had one of the largest disparities in breast cancer mortality in the nation, with African-American death rates twice that of Caucasians. For black women in Chicago, a breast cancer diagnosis in 2003 meant you were 68 percent more likely to die from the disease than a white woman.

THE RESEARCH:

Carol Ferrans with fellow advocates

The work of Carol Estwing Ferrans, PhD ’85, MS ’82, who is the Harriet W. Werley Endowed Chair in Nursing Research and a first-class inductee into the Sigma Theta Tau International Nurse Researcher Hall of Fame, showed that cultural beliefs contribute directly to later-stage diagnosis of breast cancer in African-American and Latino women in Chicago. In response Ferrans’ team reached more than 8,500 African American women in Chicago with a short film that has been shown to change these beliefs. As founding member of the Metropolitan Chicago Breast Cancer Task Force, Ferrans led the team focusing on barriers to mammography screening, to identify reasons for the growing disparity in breast cancer mortality. Their report and recommendations for action were translated directly into the Illinois Reducing Breast Cancer Disparities Act and two subsequent laws that aim to improve access to screening and the quality of mammography, as well as quality of treatment, throughout the state. The Chicago black/white disparity in breast cancer deaths has decreased by 35% since the MCBCTF first released its report.