Background: The Metropolitan Chicago Breast Cancer Taskforce was formed to address a growing black/white breast cancer mortality disparity in Chicago. The Taskforce explored three hypotheses: black women in Chicago receive fewer mammograms, black women receive mammograms of inferior quality, and black women have inadequate access to quality of treatment for breast cancer.
Methods: A total of 102 individuals from 74 Chicago area organizations participated in the Task Force participating in three work groups from January to September 2007. The work groups held focus groups of providers, organized town hall meetings in four Chicago communities, gathered black/white breast cancer mortality data for Chicago, the United States, and New York City, and conducted a mammography capacity and quality survey of mammography facilities.
Results: Chicago's black and white breast cancer mortality rates were the same in 1980. By the late 1990 s, a substantial disparity was present, and by 2005, the black breast cancer mortality rate was 116% higher than the white rate. In 2007, 206,000 screening mammograms were performed for women living in Chicago, far short of the 588,000 women in the 40-69 age range in Chicago. Facilities that served predominately minority women were less likely to be academic or private institutions (p < .03), less likely to have digital mammography (p < .003), and less likely to have dedicated breast imaging specialists reading the films (p < .003). Black women and providers serving them reported significant difficulties in accessing needed care for breast cancer screening and treatment.
Conclusion: There are significant access barriers to high quality mammography and treatment services that could be contributing to the mortality differences in Chicago. A metropolitan wide taskforce has been established to address the disparity.