Health Advocate Wants Women to Know their Rights
by Dianne Anderson
By itself, the fight for survival and surviving medical treatment is hard enough for one in eight women that will experience breast cancer in their lifetimes, but recovery and the choices after surgery aren’t much easier.
Long-time health advocate Ernesta Wright wants them to know they don’t have to go through it alone.
Wright, executive director of The G.R.E.E.N. Foundation, is reaching out this month to let women know that they have many plastic surgery choices after the mastectomy.
And, it’s all free.
In fact, it’s the law. She said women need to know their rights.
“It [post-treatment] coincides with their health coverage, and that this is an extended opportunity for women to at least factor that in. A lot of African American women do not know that,” she said.
On Wednesday, October 16, her office is hosting its Breast Reconstruction Awareness Day event, to be held from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. The event will be held at 2030 E. Fourth Street, Ste D213 in Santa Ana.
She is inviting all women to come out and learn about the services they can expect to receive after their surgery. The informal setting allows women a safe place to engage, and open up about their questions and concerns.
Wright is going into her third year partnering with Breast Reconstruction Awareness B.R.A, which is sponsored by the Plastic Surgery Foundation.
While she is reaching out to African American women, her effort also attracts a wide net of diversity with support through their annual conferences.
Community education is important to help get the word out, especially to those who are at more risk of missing out on reconstructive surgery.
Some don’t know that it’s free, others do not that it’s available. There is also no time limit to access the surgery.
“If they had a mastectomy or lumpectomy, they have a lifetime to make their decision for that plastic surgery for reconstruction for any time they want to come back and have that procedure,” she said.
For nearly two decades, Wright has also been active in support services for African American women, highlighting the many risks and disparities associated with breast cancer. Among the concerns, timing is critical.
In one recent study, “Disparities in breast cancer tumor characteristics, treatment, time to treatment, and survival probability among African American and white women,” researchers found that for African American women, the average time to start treatment after diagnoses was almost two times longer compared to white women, 62 days versus 35 days.
According to Breastcancer.org, although immediate breast reconstruction is done at the same time as the mastectomy, women of color are also not accessing the procedure the same as white women.
The study found the type of insurance, private versus public, significantly factored in outcomes for all women. However, white women fared best across the board.
For those with private insurance, researchers found that 84% of white women had immediate reconstruction, 65% of Hispanic women had immediate reconstruction, 60% of black women had immediate reconstruction 58% of Asian, Pacific Islander, and Native American women had immediate reconstruction
Overall, immediate reconstruction rates were much lower for all women with public insurance, but even there was found significant race-related gaps in access.
Researchers found that 34% of white women had immediate reconstruction, 28% of Hispanic women had immediate reconstruction, 24% of black women had immediate reconstruction and 24% of Asian, Pacific Islander, and Native America had immediate reconstruction.
“This shows that race alone is a predictor of who is most likely to undergo reconstruction, and that this racial disparity exists independent of geography or socioeconomic status,” Butler said.
For more information, see www.thegreenfoundation.net