Sisters Network, Inc. Addresses Black Breast Cancer Crisis

Every three minutes, a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer and every 13 minutes, a woman dies from the disease, according to Susan G. Komen. Scary, huh? You know what’s even scarier? Black women are more likely to die from breast cancer than any other racial and ethnic group.

According to the American Cancer Society, the overall five-year relative survival rate for Black women who were diagnosed with breast cancer during 2002-2008 was 78 percent, compared to 90 percent among White women.

Sisters Network, Inc., the only national African-American breast cancer survivorship organization in the country, is trying to change that.   

Kelly P. Hodges, national program director of Sisters Network, Inc., says, “Our main mission is to save lives. Our tagline is ‘Stop the Silence’ because we know--and the research shows-- there’s a great disparity and lack of education, financial support and resources [within the] African-American community.”

In 1994, Karen E. Jackson, founder and CEO of Sisters Network, Inc., created the organization after being diagnosed with breast cancer the previous year. During her journey, she became disappointed with the lack of “sisterhood” in some of the traditional organizations, as well as the staggering mortality rate among Black women diagnosed with breast cancer.

“My desire to connect with other women who looked like me became a passion and purpose,” she says. “I wanted to join a national African-American breast cancer organization, but to my surprise, none existed. I [decided] to start a sisterhood movement to [lessen] the crisis [faced by] African-American women, [who’ve been diagnosed with] breast cancer.”

For almost two decades now, Sisters Network, Inc. has been dedicated to increasing the local and national attention on the devastating impact that breast cancer has on the Black community. During 2011, the organization reached approximately 3.9 million families.

Traditionally speaking, Black women tend to take on the leadership roles in their families, caring for everyone else and neglecting their own health as a result. For that reason, Sisters Network, Inc. wants Black women to start making their health a priority, and understand that “breast cancer is not an older White woman’s disease. Any woman is at risk. African-American women are at a higher risk.”

To help raise awareness, the organization hosts a series of events throughout the year, such as the annual Stop the Silence Walk, which is the only national African-American breast cancer 5K walk/run. The Houston event attracts roughly 8,000 participants from around the country per year.  The next walk is set to take place Saturday, April 5, 2014. Funds raised from the event will benefit their Breast Cancer Assistance Program, which provides financial assistance for prescriptions, co-pay/office visits and prosthesis to name a few.

One of Sisters Network Inc.’s core programs is the Young Sisters Initiative. In this program, breast cancer survivors 45 and under are provided with information regarding genetic testing for breast cancer, how to cope with emotional issues associated with diagnosis and treatment, as well as sexual/reproductive health issues that may arise at the time of diagnosis and during treatment/post-treatment survivorship.  

“That’s more of a social-networking program, where we’re targeting women online, and having information available through our webinar series, posting our brochures and information online, allowing women to have access at their disposal when it’s convenient for them,” Hodges says.

Sisters Network, Inc.’s other programs include Gift for Life Block Walk and Pink Ribbon Awareness Initiative, which targets churchgoers with information on how to access breast care services and resources.

In the near future, Jackson wants to continue expanding the organization’s affiliate chapters across the country. As of right now, over 40 chapters exist, but they’re inundated with requests to create new chapters in cities, where there’s a greater need for breast health services.

In addition, they plan on increasing their social-networking presence by becoming involved with various companies to launch bigger and better campaigns in the upcoming years.

This month, Sisters Network Inc. is partnering with IMAN Cosmetics to help celebrate breast cancer awareness month by spreading the word about Young Sisters Initiative. The goal is to get 5,000 women registered for the program. 

Also, when you pick up an IMAN Pink Luxury Lip Stain, a percentage of the purchase will go toward the $20,000 that IMAN Cosmetics will be donating to the organization.  

“We’re really excited about that because Iman came to us,” Hodges says. “We’re often seeking out organizations that have the same [target audience and interests] as we do, so we’re very excited to be able to have the opportunity to partner with Iman this year.”

Though October is nearly over, Sisters Network, Inc. is committed to working year round, working to educate the Black community on a disease that’s expected to kill approximately 6,000 of our women this year alone.

“Put your health first; early detection can save your life, or someone you know,” Jackson says. “Breast cancer