It's widely know that Black Americans suffering from cancer have a greater chance of dying from the disease than do whites. Many doctors and researchers once thought genetic make-up differs from race to race, causing the higher mortality rate in blacks.
Dr. Otis Brawley, an oncologist and professor of medicine at Emory University, says that's ridiculous. He also says that kind of thinking is hurting the battle to defeat cancer.
Hundreds of health care professionals came to Albany Technical College today for "Closing the Gap," a cancer seminar. The focus - ending disparities in cancer health care.
"There's still a huge group of people you don't seek medical attention. And, there are many reasons why," said Dr. Brawley. And he says many people, including medical professionals, politicians who set guidelines for health care, and even patients still think blacks die from cancer more than whites because of their genetic make-up.
"It's racist to think that a black man is made different than a white man. That's not why the rates of mortality are higher for African Americans." Dr. Brawley says geography and socio-economic status, not race, can mean the difference in life or death for someone with cancer.
"The quality of care the poor receive is one reason they may be a more likely to die from diseases."
Brawley also asked the group not to focus on the number of people who die each year from cancer, instead they encourage those who are still alive to get screened for the potentially deadly disease.
The Georgia Cancer Coalition is making sure affordable health care is available, hopefully ending disparities in cancer treatment.
"There is a cancer state aid program for economically and medically indigent people," said Nancy Paris, Vice President of the Georgia Cancer Coalition. "We've also expanded Medicaid coverage for cancer treatment."
Health care is expensive, but eating healthy foods and not smoking are effective and free ways to reduce your risk of developing cancer.