Watch CBS News

Breast cancer experts and survivors dedicated to increasing screenings in Black, Brown communities

Breast cancer survivors encourage screenings in Black, Brown communities
Breast cancer survivors encourage screenings in Black, Brown communities 03:46

NEW YORK -- CBS New York is partnering with the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure cancer fundraiser taking place in Central Park this weekend. It's part of our commitment to community through CBS New York's #BetterTogether campaign.

CBS New York's Natalie Duddridge sat down with three women -- experts and survivors -- to discuss how to increase breast cancer screening, especially in Black and Brown communities.

"Early detection saves lives. I know it sounds like a cliche," said Vina Morris, a two-time breast cancer survivor. "My journey with breast cancer started when I was like 35 years old, and I found a lump one morning."

She had a biopsy. It came back benign. Doctors removed it, and it turned out to be cancer. She underwent radiation. Six months later, she had another mammogram and found another cancerous lump.

Morris had to make a major decision, which she documented.

In a cellphone video from that time, she is seen saying, "My next steps are to do a double mastectomy with reconstruction, so today is the first surgery of three, and I wanted to videograph this so that I have an opportunity to help others in my situation. I'm here with my mom. Check out our shirts."

Their t-shirts say, "In this family, no one fights alone."

Rather than let cancer defeat her, Morris found the strength to help other women and launched Afro Pink.

"Afro Pink is a nonprofit that's dedicated to bringing awareness of breast cancer in communities of color, particularly in the Black community," she said. "We have the highest rate of dying from breast cancer than any other race, a 40 percent higher chance."

Medical experts say the dramatically higher death rates, despite a similar number of cases, is blamed on a various factors including social and economic inequalities, limited health care access and lack of information.

That's why Morris partners with various breast cancer organizations to bring testing where it's needed most.

"Going to those populations, bringing the mammo van or having a mobile screening can really help in that way, too," said Dr. Elizabeth Morris, Department of Radiology Chair at UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Dr. Elizabeth Morris is a breast cancer researcher as well as a survivor. She explains a mammo van, or ScanVan, is a traveling clinic that reaches people where they are.

"It's important by the age of 30 to understand, do you have a family history of breast cancer ... If you have a family history of breast cancer, you might need to start earlier than the age of 40," Dr. Elizabeth Morris said. "Sixty to 70 percent of women get screened in this country, and I'd love to see it be 100 percent."

Working on the policy side at the Susan G. Komen breast cancer organization, Angelica Katz says accessibility is one issue when it comes to screening. Another is financial.

"Out-of-pocket cost can range anywhere from $200 to $1,100," she said.

That's why Komen helped enact the "No Excuses" law.

"What this bill does is it provides diagnostic follow-up testing at no cost for those with state-regulated plans ... It allows over 200 facilities across the state to have extended screening hours. And if you're a public employee, you also are eligible to take leave up to four hours to get your screening," Katz said.

Katz's work is inspired by her family member Karen Ottomanelli, who died from metastatic breast cancer in 2010.

"I feel like working at Komen I continue her legacy and I can help others," she said.

These three women, linked by cancer and each connected to Komen, are passionately advocating through local nonprofits, research and policy efforts to make sure no woman goes untested.

The Komen Race for the Cure takes place Sunday. You can still register, right up until the walk begins at 9 a.m.

To sign up or donate, click here.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.