Black women are more likely to die of breast cancer. These survivors are working to change that.

by Cynthia Johnson

When Kimberly Richardson was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer in 2017, her doctor recommended she enroll in a clinical trial for an experimental chemotherapy pill.

The study, like many others, needed more Black participants. Only 5 percent of participants in U.S. clinical trials are Black, a fact that experts attribute to a history of racism in medicine. That racism – including prominent examples like the Tuskegee study that saw U.S. government researchers deny syphilis treatment to Black men – has engendered mistrust in the Black community.

Richardson didn’t hesitate to say yes, though. Black women are 40 percent more likely to die from breast cancer than white women, despite the fact they are diagnosed at similar rates.

People say that breast cancer has no color. It’s not true. The care given, the outcomes, they’re not equal. We have to be deliberate about creating messaging for these communities, because it’s not one-size-fits-all.

-Cynthia Johnson

She also believed her participation could help other Black women in the future.

“I know that a lot of African Americans turn up their noses to clinical trials,” said Richardson, who now raises awareness of breast cancer as a board member for the Houston nonprofit Angels Surviving Cancer. “But I looked at it different. When I go to speak and I give my story, I let other women know it’s worth a try.”


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