Ensuring Quality and Equity in Breast Cancer Care – Getting Women the Best Care for the Most Promising Outcomes

On September 7-9, nearly 200 breast cancer experts – nurses, physicians, patient navigators and advocates – gathered in Miami for the 2016 Avon Breast Cancer Forum. Over three days, Avon’s access to care programs from all corners of the United States discussed cutting edge topics in treatment and services. From implications of the Affordable Care Act to addressing racial disparities in health outcomes, it was clear from the discussions throughout the Forum that women continue to face a myriad of barriers in their efforts to access high quality screening, diagnostics and treatment.

The theme of the Forum was Ensuring Quality and Equity in Breast Cancer Care – critical for the communities Avon’s programs serve. Speakers and participants shared their creative approaches to linking women to the screening, diagnostics and treatment they need, when they need it.  But, as shown by efforts to assess the quality of mammography care, connection to screening means nothing if services are not of the highest quality and easily accessible for all.

There were a number of key takeaways from the Forum – all important considerations for how Avon’s programs address breast health care. Highlights include:

Disparities in breast cancer outcomes exist across a variety of groups: New research from the Sinai Urban Health Institute and funded by the Avon Foundation revealed that though the incidence of breast cancer among Hispanic subgroups is similar, mortality rates differ – Mexican and Puerto Rican women are more likely to die from breast cancer than Central and South American women. During the Forum, panelists also discussed the known disparities in breast cancer mortality between black and white women and shared the coalition-based city-level responses to address this gap in Chicago and Memphis. These panels demonstrated the need for new approaches to reach the women most affected by these disparities.

Given the complexities of the healthcare system, women and families need support throughout screening, treatment and care: Throughout the Forum, program leaders shared both the challenges and benefits for patients after implementation of the Affordable Care Act. With new insurance options in many states, navigators are vital resources for helping women and families understand what this coverage means and how to use it. And in states where options are scarce, navigators play a critical role in helping patients seek affordable care. Additionally, navigators help women sort through the often confusing health messages about screening guidelines and breast density that, without explanation, might prevent individuals from knowing how to care for their own health.

Innovative programs are required to meet the needs of metastatic breast cancer patients: Speakers emphasized how the needs of metastatic breast cancer patients are different from those with earlier stage disease. End of life matters, including legal support and planning for the care of children, are a top priority for those living with metastatic disease. Panelists shared the myriad of innovative approaches they use to support this unique group, including retreats, palliative care, complimentary integrative medicine and tools to enhance patient-provider communication.

Medicine is just the tip of the iceberg – many breast cancer patients lack access to basic resources like nutritious food: Breast cancer patients need nutritious food to maintain strength during often rigorous treatment regimens. Integrating medically-tailored, culturally familiar food into a patient’s treatment program is an important way to bolster health outcomes. Speakers encouraged programs to partner with a local food program, grocery store or food pantry to help breast cancer patients access nourishment.

Data is the cornerstone of understanding trends to, in turn, help women who need the most support: The Avon Breast Cancer Crusade asks its beneficiaries to report on a number of metrics to understand how their efforts impact women’s lives. These data points help individual programs set and achieve their goals, while at the same time, creating a snapshot of what care looks like for women across the country. Panelists, speakers and participants shared their enthusiasm for this data collection process and subsequent evaluation, and encouraged the data collection team to consider areas where additional data could be collected.

“Avon has the courage to stand up for women at the real levels that merit change.” – Dorothy Gibbons, Forum Attendee, CEO, The Rose

Held every two years, the Avon Breast Cancer Forum provides a platform for conversation about the key issues facing women today, as well as an opportunity for leaders to create new connections with those in their own backyard or states away. The Forum provided space to challenge assumptions, brainstorm new ways of doing the conventional and identify partnerships to tackle breast cancer around the country.


Generous support for this program provided by Gold Sponsors: Genentech and Lilly Oncology and Silver Sponsor: Pfizer Oncology.