Bridging Disparities in Breast Cancer Morbidity and Mortality in Women of Color With Jessica Jones, MD
At the recent American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting, Jessica Jones, Assistant Professor of Oncology at the University of Texas (UT) Health System, sat down with Oncology Data Advisor to discuss her work in cancer detection and cancer prevention in Black women with a higher risk of developing breast cancer and bridging the racial gap in breast cancer morbidity and mortality with early detection and prevention.
This podcast episode was recorded live at the 2022 ASCO Annual Meeting in Chicago by Oncology Data Advisor and ConveyMed.
Oncology Data Advisor: Welcome to Oncology Data Advisor, I'm Keira Smith. Today I'm here at the ASCO Annual Meeting in Chicago speaking with Jessica Jones of the UT Health System. Thank you so much for joining us here.
Jessica Jones, MD: Thank you for having me.
Oncology Data Advisor: Yes, absolutely. So you've done a lot of work and research in breast cancer prevention, especially for Black American women. Would you like to tell us about that?
Dr. Jones: Yes. Thank you for asking. So I'd like to bring attention to the call of action that we have for our Black American patients. There is an increased morbidity and mortality that's associated with breast cancer. While Black women may not necessarily be diagnosed as much with breast cancer than White women, they will more often have death resulting from their diagnosis.
So, what steps is the medical community as a whole doing to prevent this? What are we doing to bridge it? We do have interventions in place and different actions that we can take, not only as oncologists— which is myself, I'm an oncologist for breast oncology—but that family practitioners and gynecologists and family medicine doctors can do as well.
Oncology Data Advisor: Great. Thank you so much. So, what is some of the research that's being done here at ASCO relating to this topic?
Dr. Jones: Some of the research that's being presented right now is looking at early detection and increased screening. In 2018, the American College of Radiologists actually recommended that Black women receive an assessment for if they're at higher risk of breast cancer, starting at the age of 35. Now this will probably make some people think, wait, 35? We're not supposed to get our mammograms until we're 40. And that's because the American College of Radiologists recognizes that one, there's increased morbidity and mortality for Black women, and two, breast cancer is not necessarily detected in the same way and they're at an increased risk.
So, what we should be doing is saying, "Okay, do you have a family history? Did you have an early puberty, or did you have late menopause? Do you have dense breasts? Have you taken estrogen products?" A lot of these different clinical questions, paired with information that we can only get from mammography, such as dense breast tissue, can help us gauge if a woman should be getting mammograms, maybe even before the age of 40. And the group of women where we should really be focusing on that is our Black American women.
Oncology Data Advisor: Great. Thank you. Anything else you'd like to share about your experience here at ASCO and the research here?
Dr. Jones: I think that there's a lot of interesting research that's coming down the pipeline, especially for screening for cancer. We're hearing a lot of data that's in its infancy, but there are even blood tests that can detect cancer way before we'd be able to see it on a mammogram or on a colonoscopy. Now, there's still a lot of work that needs to be done with this. And I think personally, that as we try to figure out this technology, we should be very mindful and careful in who we try to do blood tests on to do early detection of cancer.
I think focusing on our disparate communities, such as Black American women and Latino women, as well as our Asian American women, should be a priority as we look into how to better improve cancer screening. Early breast cancer has a cure rate of 98%. It's amazing what we can do when cancer is caught early.
Additionally, there's medication, chemo prevention, pills, that we can prescribe a woman that, if we know she's at increased risk of cancer, can reduce her risk of cancer by up to 50%. The fact that we can prevent half of the breast cancers that we see are just so many missed opportunities that I think that coming after this ASCO, there's going to be a call to action to how we can better reach these women. How can we better improve our prevention space? How can we better incorporate these pills, these medications that can be given? And last but not least, are we finally going to bridge that morbidity and mortality gap that we know exists but has not yet been bridged?
Oncology Data Advisor: Absolutely. Thank you so much for telling us all of this and thank you again for being here.
Dr. Jones: Yes, it's my pleasure. Thanks again.
Thank you for listening to this podcast recorded live at the 2022 ASCO Annual Meeting by Oncology Data Advisor and ConveyMed. For more expert perspectives on the latest in cancer research and treatment, be sure to subscribe to the podcast at conveymed.io and oncdata.com. Don't forget to follow us on social media for news, exclusive interviews, and more.
About Dr. Jones
Dr. Jessica Jones, MD, is an Assistant Professor at the McGovern Medical School at the University of Texas in Houston. Dr. Jones has received multiple awards for her research and oncology practice. Her research includes studies in improving cancer detection and treatment initiation for minorities.
Transcript edited for clarity. Any views expressed above are the speaker's own and do not necessarily reflect those of Oncology Data Advisor.