132 Annual Meeting Logo - Go to APHA Meeting Page  
APHA Logo - Go to APHA Home Page

Till my change comes: Breast cancer survivorship and the transformation of African American women’s health advocacy

Elizabeth A. Williams, PhD, Commissioner's Office, Tennessee Dept of Health, Cordell Hull Building, 3rd Floor, 425 5th Avenue North, Nashville, TN 37247, 615) 741-3886, Elizabeth.Ann.Williams@state.tn.us

Breast cancer represents a major health issue for women of color in the United States. More Euro-American women are annually diagnosed with the disease, yet more African American women with breast cancer succumb. Numerous explanations suggest why breast cancer disparities exist between African American and other American women. Significant among these are: poverty, treatment seeking delays, discrimination in treatment delivery, and differing cultural understandings of cancer.

Some public health and social science literatures regarding African American women and breast cancer present “culture” (whether implicitly or explicitly) as counter-productive to health. However, prevailing ideas about African American women’s culturally- determined responses to breast cancer do not match the reality of some African American breast cancer survivors’ experiences. Instead of a detriment, “culture” particularly aids many African American survivors’ coping. “Culture” also helps others attain a higher quality of life during survivorship by transforming their health advocacy in ways they once perceived as unavailable to them.

Based on a critically informed anthropological approach and seventeen months of ethnographic fieldwork, this paper describes the complex psychosocial and transformative benefits of “culture” for African American survivors.

Learning Objectives:

  • At the session’s close, the participant in this session will be able to

    Keywords: African American, Breast Cancer

    Presenting author's disclosure statement:
    I do not have any significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.

    Stop! You are Making Me Sick! Improving Public Health through Political and Social Change

    The 132nd Annual Meeting (November 6-10, 2004) of APHA