A faith-based breast cancer education program led by Walden faculty member Dr. Phyllis Morgan helps African-American women in her Virginia community learn about their risk and encourages timely screening.

Posted by Jerry Sweitzer
Posted on Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A diagnosis of breast cancer can be traumatic, whether it’s your own or for someone you love. But a subtype known as triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) brings further complications. The most successful breast cancer treatments can be ineffective with TNBC. What’s more, TNBC can be a very aggressive form of breast cancer if it isn’t detected early. It’s also more prevalent in African-American women than in any other racial or ethnic group.

Dr. Phyllis Morgan
Dr. Phyllis Morgan

Dr. Phyllis Morgan, a faculty member in Walden University’s School of Nursing, is working to educate African-American women in her community about their breast cancer risk and promote timely mammograms. She and other leaders of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women Prince William County (Va.) Chapter are developing a faith-based breast cancer education program, funded by a grant from the Potomac Health Foundation. As program manager for this yearlong effort, Dr. Morgan is responsible for its design and successful implementation.

“We want to educate, encourage, and motivate 500 black women to get screened for breast cancer,” Dr. Morgan says.

Achieving such an ambitious goal, she says, requires collaboration: “To successfully implement a program like ours, you need to involve the community. That’s the most critical piece. You can’t do it on an island by yourself. It takes connections, sharing resources and talents, and respecting what each person brings to a project.”

The only nurse scientist involved in the project, Dr. Morgan has joined with her team members to engage community churches, healthcare agencies, and breast health advocates as their partners. Her work to create the breast cancer education program is influenced by her prior experience developing a faith-based program to educate African-American women and men in North Carolina about colorectal cancer.

“Spirituality and religiosity are very important to the African-American community. We know that faith-based programs are successful,” Dr. Morgan says. “You have to make a program culturally sensitive and appropriate. There has to be a trust and comfort level.”

A health fair that Dr. Morgan and her team held in February was the catalyst for the current project. Dr. Morgan reports that data from the health fair indicated that many participants hadn’t known about TNBC beforehand but wanted to learn more. She also points out that the education program will encourage more women to get regular mammograms by helping them understand why screening is important.

With the recently awarded grant funding, they are implementing education programs at local churches in their community. These programs will feature presentations by physicians about breast cancer (more specifically about TNBC) and mammography, as well as testimonials by African-American women who have survived breast cancer. Informational materials will be made available in conjunction with these presentations.

A mammography van will be on hand to allow women who attend the education programs to be screened immediately. Its presence will reinforce Dr. Morgan’s overarching message about breast cancer, and particularly about TNBC. She says, “TNBC has a significant impact on minority women and needs to be detected early. The way to detect it is through mammography screening. The good news is that of all the kinds of breast cancer, this one responds best to chemotherapy if detected early.”

Join Walden in the Fight Against Breast Cancer

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month this October, Walden’s College of Health Sciences is partnering with the National Breast Cancer Foundation to shine the spotlight on this devastating disease—one that claims the lives of approximately 40,000 U.S. women each year. Visit www.WaldenU.edu/breastcancer to view the activities schedule and learn more about breast cancer risk factors, symptoms, and guidelines you can follow to potentially limit your risk.

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