Black Women and Cancer Disparities


MIAMI, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Doctors say African American women are at higher risks for contracting and dying of certain gynecological cancers. One patient is telling her story so other women will prioritize regular check-ups.

Rachel Fleeton is a doting dog mom. Her yorkies get top-notch treats and care. Something she had to learn to do for herself after a devastating cervical cancer diagnosis, after having gone several years without check-ups.

“Terrifying, life-changing, very scary,” shared Fleeton.

Research shows African American women are more at risk for certain gynecological cancers and more likely to die from them.

“What we’ve learned is not only do we need to do a better job in identifying these cancers earlier on across all disparities, but particularly in black women, but we need to actually treat them more aggressively sometimes and treat them differently,” explained Brian Slomovitz, MD, a gynecological oncologist with Broward Health.

Doctors say black women are more likely to be diagnosed with uterine, cervical, endometrial, and ovarian cancers.

“We have to stress regular check-ups, we have to stress routine screening, we have to stress to trust the medical system,” continued Dr. Slomovitz.

Now committed to her own care, Fleeton’s prognosis is promising.

“It could have been worse, however, I was able to catch it in time to where I was able to be treated in a timely fashion and, thank God, I’m awesome now,” smiled Fleeton.

After several rounds of chemotherapy and radiation, the 41-year-old is now cancer free.

Routine screenings can help decrease a patient’s cancer by 50 percent.

Contributors to this news report include: Neki Mohan, Producer; Roque Correa, Editor; and Judy Reich, Videographer.  

REPORT #2844

BACKGROUND: Gynecologic cancers result from the rapid growth and spread of abnormal cells in a woman’s reproductive system. Compared to other types of cancer (like breast or colon cancer), gynecologic cancers occur in about 100,000 women in the United States each year. The cancer is named for the part of the body where it starts. They start in different places within a woman’s pelvis, which is the area below the stomach and in between the hip bones. All women are at risk for developing gynecologic cancers, and the risk increases with age. There are five major types of gynecological cancers: cervical cancer, uterine (endometrial) cancer, ovarian cancer, vaginal cancer, and vulvar cancer. It’s important to know the warning signs, as treatments are most effective when the cancer is found at an early stage.

(Source: and,in%20between%20the%20hip%20bones)

RACE AND CERVICAL CANCER: Approximately 2,000 African American women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year, and more than 40 percent die from the disease. Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable types of cancer, and women can be screened for it with routine Pap tests. It is almost always caused by genital human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) now recommends that women begin cervical cancer screening at age 21, instead of three years after the onset of sexual activity, as previously recommended. Although cervical cancer occurs most often in Hispanic women, African American women tend to have lower 5-year survival rates and die more often than any other race.  In fact, they have twice the cervical cancer mortality rate compared to white women. Early cervical cancer generally shows no signs or symptoms. This is why regular screening is so important.


GENETIC TESTING AND CANCER TREATMENT: Cancer treatments are increasingly being geared to the genetic signature of each patient’s tumor, and the set of mutations and other abnormalities spurring the cancer’s growth. Doctors estimate, in women’s cancers, that genetic information now guides the treatment of about 10-20% of patients with metastatic disease. “We’re applying what has been learned in laboratory science to create new treatment options for patients,” says Ursula Matulonis, MD, chief of the Division of Gynecologic Oncology at Dana-Farber in Massachusetts. “Many of these options are available today, as standard therapies, and others are producing very promising results in clinical trials.” The availability of targeted therapies means physicians can offer patients more personalized care.


* For More Information, Contact:

Fara-Ann Arca

Media Relations Broward Health

Free weekly e-mail on Medical Breakthroughs from Ivanhoe. To sign up: