MINORITY HEALTH AND COLORECTAL CANCER

In light of the death of Chadwick Boseman, a black man most famously known for his role in Black Panther and other Marvel movies (may he rest in power), we must realize the racial disparities that occur in colon cancer. Colon cancer is the third-most common cancer in all adults in the USA. Colorectal cancer affects men and women and impacts people of all nationalities and ethnic groups. However, they are not impacted equally.

African Americans

  • 15 to 20% more likely to die from the disease than patients of any other race
  • higher chance of being diagnosed at a later stage and with a higher morality rate
  • recommended to be screened at 45 instead of 50 because of genetic factors (“African Americans with colorectal cancer are more likely to cope with an aggressive subtype fueled by a mutation in the KRAS gene, which drives cancer growth )
  • affected by socioeconomic barriers (low income, difficult to find transportation, lack of health insurance, lack of medical literacy, and access to care)

Asian Americans

  • 52% of Asian American adults between 50-75 have not been screening for colorectal cancer
  • colorectal cancer is the 2nd most common cancer in Asian Americans
  • risk of colorectal cancer increases greatly upon immigration to the United States
  • many Asian Americans are unfamiliar with colorectal cancer as disease rates in native countries are very low

Hispanics/Latinx

  • 47% of Hispanic adults between 50-75 have not been screening for colorectal cancer
  • also affected by socioeconomic barriers
  • cultural barriers (misconceptions about western medicine, language barrier in communicating with medical personnel)
  • talking about disease and death is culturally taboo

American Indians and Alaska Natives

  • fewer than half are current with colorectal cancer screening
  • colorectal cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer and second deadliest cancer in American Indians and Alaska Natives
  • they live in rural and isolated communities so it is hard to find screening
  • higher burden of cancer risk factors
  • socioeconomic barriers (lack of funding for tribal health clinics, high rates of poverty, lack of health insurance, etc. )

SYMPTOMS OF COLON CANCER

  • changes in bowel habits and stomach pain (diarrhea/constipation)
  • unexplained or unintentional weight loss
  • unexplained fatigue
  • anemia
  • cramping pain in the lower stomach
  • rectal bleeding with bright red blood
  • blood in the stool
  • cramps/abdominal pain

Symptoms of colon cancer mimic other GI disorders, so doctors are less likely to screen patients under 50 with these symptoms. If you have access to healthcare and you are experiencing any of these conditions, please see a doctor!

In honor of Chadwick Boseman, please consider donating to organizations like the Colon Cancer Coalition that raises awareness for early colon cancer detection and effective treatment for colon cancer patients.

sources:

https://www.inovanewsroom.org/featured-posts/2020/02/colon-cancer-and-the-black-community/

BLACK WOMEN I WISH I LEARNED ABOUT IN SCIENCE CLASS

Let’s be real, students are continuously lectured on the groundbreaking experiments and discoveries that white men have made. Black women, particularly Black woman in STEM, aren’t given the recognition and honor that they deserve. This is why I have created this post to honor the Black women who have impacted and shaped medicine/science.

Dr. Gladys West

Image result for dr gladys west
Dr. Gladys West, an American mathematician. The hidden figure behind the GPS; 1930-?

Dr. Gladys West is an American mathematician known for her contributions in a device that is essential to everybody all over the world: the GPS. Prior to her mathematical model of the earth, the precise measurement of distances over the Earth’s surface was nearly impossible. The imperfect shape of the earth and the variation of sea levels make calculating these distances challenging. Dr. West used the information from satellites to refine an increasingly detailed and accurate mathematical model of the actual shape of the earth, a “geoid.” Her work wasn’t officially recognized until early 2018 when the United States Military recognized her in a press release issued by the Air Force Space Command. She was later commended by the Virginia State Senate and inducted into the Air Force Space and Missile Pioneers Hall of Fame.

Katherine Johnson

Katherine Johnson - Wikipedia
Katherine Johnson 1918-2020

Katherine Johnson was a person who pushed the limits. Despite being both African-American and a female, she excelled both academically (graduating with highest honors and one of three black students to be integrated into West Virginia’s graduate school) and in her workplace (NASA, referred to as NACA at the time). In 1962, the United States decided to send people to the moon; Johnson was one of the members on the team that figured out the calculations and math surrounding the trip. Johnson figured out the paths for the spacecraft to orbit Earth and to land on the moon. Her calculations of orbital mechanics were critical to the success of the first and subsequent U.S. crewed spaceflights.

Henrietta Lacks

Henrietta Lacks and Her Remarkable Cells Will Finally See Some ...
Henrietta Lacks circa 1945-1951; pic creds. The Wall Street Journal; 1920-1951

Henrietta Lacks visited The Johns Hopkins Hospital, one of only a few hospitals that treated poor African-Americans, in 1951 due to vaginal bleeding. Upon examination, the doctor discovered a large, malignant tumor on her cervix and immediately began radium treatment on her. As standard procedure, they got a sample of her cancer cells and sent it to another doctor, Dr. George Gey. Typically, each sample quickly dies in Gey’s lab. However, Lacks’ cells doubled every 20 to 24 hours. Today, these cells—nicknamed “HeLa cells”— are used in a variety of ways including studying the effects of toxins, drugs, hormones without experimenting on humans. Her cells were the first immortal human cells ever grown in culture. They were essential to developing the polio vaccine and went up in the first space missions to see what would happen to cells in zero gravity. Between the years 1953-2018, HeLa cells have been used by researchers from 142 countries and in 110,000 publications.

Dr. Angella Dorothea Ferguson

Dr. Angella Dorothea Ferguson; 1925-?

Dr. Angella Ferguson is an American pediatrician known for her groundbreaking research on sickle cell anemia, a hereditary disease that causes improper folding of red blood cells. The folding results in improper blood flow to organs and deprive the affected organs of blood and oxygen. Dr. Ferguson’s research focused on the development of the sickle cell disease among African American infants. She developed a blood test to detect sickle cell at birth which eventually became the standard for forty U.S. states by 2010. Her research set the guidelines on how to diagnose and treat sickle cell anemia.

Alice Ball

Alice Ball - Death, Facts & Leprosy - Biography
Alice Ball; 1892-1916

Alice Augusta Ball was an American chemist who developed the “Ball Method,” the most effective treatment for leprosy at the age of 23. In 1915, an infection with leprosy—a chronic disease causing skin lesions and nerve damage—was a death sentence. If infected, patients were commonly sent into mandatory quarantine in “leper colonies,” never to return. Prior to the Ball Method, a somewhat-effective treatment for leprosy was the use of an oil extracted from the chaulmoogra tree. However, that oil wasn’t readily water soluble, making it difficult for the human body to absorb. Ball was able to discover a method for extracting compounds from the oil and modifying them to become more soluble (ester ethyl form) which led to the development of an injectable treatment for leprosy.