Who Can Help Us on This Journey? African American Woman with Breast Cancer: Living in a City with Extreme Health Disparities

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Feb 11;17(4):1126. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17041126.


This qualitative descriptive research study looks at the services that community-based breast cancer support agencies provide to underserved and African American women who are at risk for or diagnosed with breast cancer in Memphis, Tennessee. We seek their understanding of breast cancer mortality disparities in Memphis. Data were collected using semi-structured in-depth focus groups with five breast cancer support agencies. Categories and patterns were established using thematic analysis and a deductive a priori template of codes. Thematic analysis is a method for identifying, analyzing, and reporting themes within the data. The main themes identified within support agencies for African American women with breast cancer who live in Memphis were barriers to the use of services, education, health system support, and emotional support. Numerous sub themes included cost of medications, support group supplemental programming, eligibility for mobile services, patient/provider communication, optimism about the future, and family advice. Procrastinating, seeking second options, fearfulness, insurance, childcare, and transportation were barriers to care. Community-based breast cancer support agencies play a critical role as connectors for women with breast cancer who live in medically underserved areas and must find their way within a fragmented medical care system.

Keywords: African American women; access; breast cancer; education; emotional support; focus group; health disparities; race; support agencies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • African Americans*
  • Aged
  • Breast Neoplasms* / ethnology
  • Breast Neoplasms* / therapy
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Healthcare Disparities*
  • Humans
  • Medically Underserved Area*
  • Middle Aged
  • Tennessee