Stanford Cancer Institute

​​Over 300 people attended the 12th Annual Conference: SCI Breast Cancer and African Americans on Saturday, August 26 in Newark, CA. This event is hosted by the Stanford Cancer Institute (SCI) Office of Cancer Health Equity and was held in person for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. 

Black women have the lowest five-year breast cancer survival rate compared to all other racial and ethnic groups for every stage of diagnosis and every breast cancer subtype. This annual conference addresses this disparity by reaching Black women in the Bay Area community with culturally tailored, life-saving breast cancer information and education. The SCI Office of Cancer Health Equity partners with local community groups and organizations to create an interactive, informative, and memorable experience for attendees.

Pamela Ratliff, program director with the SCI Office of Cancer Health Equity and producer of the event, said, “Providing culturally-tailored breast health information, access, and resources is crucial to helping to eradicate breast cancer inequities that Black women face in our local communities. Having the opportunity to engage in a dialogue with experts who not only understand their cultural nuances but also share similar backgrounds puts us at the forefront of leading the way in the development of innovative models of community engagement that ultimately can improve healthcare outcomes for diverse and medically underserved populations.”  

Rev. Dr. Sakena Young-Scaggs, PhD, senior associate dean for the Stanford Office of Religious & Spiritual Life and pastor of Stanford Memorial Church, kicked off the event with a presentation on “Living the Sankofa Journey” to help participants connect holistically to their history and African ancestry.

Breast cancer experts who spoke at the conference included SCI member and professor of radiation oncology Iris Gibbs, MD, FACR, and Stanford clinical assistant professor in surgery and breast surgical oncologist Candice Thompson, MD. Experts presented on a range of topics, including risk reduction, screening, treatment options, survivorship, diversity in clinical trials, mental wellness, healthy lifestyle choices, and medical gaslighting, which is when a provider downplays a patient’s physical symptoms or concerns as if it’s a psychological issue. 

Breast cancer survivors and caregivers provided an insider’s perspective on their unique journeys during an intimate fireside chat on navigating breast cancer. The discussion included insights into their diagnoses, health care planning, family health history, genetic testing, clinical trials and research involvement, relationships, fertility issues, and the support they received as both survivors and caregivers. They also shared words of encouragement to audience members, many of whom were at different points in their breast cancer journeys. 

Community partners and local organizations participated in the onsite Health & Wellness Resource Fair, allowing attendees to talk one-on-one with representatives from community-based organizations and non-profits that provide free or low-cost breast health information and services. 

Ratliff said, “This conference began as a form of outreach and engagement for the community and has evolved into a place of fellowship where Black women can openly and safely express their deepest concerns and needs related to breast cancer. This event empowers women to become their own health advocates so they can better understand how to gather health information and use it for themselves or share it with others they care about. It highlights the importance of having dedicated culturally-congruent educational information and support that women value and appreciate without being conditional on any expectations of their conformity.”  

Complete program information can be found on the event website, and event photos can be found in this gallery.

September 2023 by Katie Shumake
Image: Courtesy of Pamela Ratliff