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Sisters Network, M. D. Anderson Team Up  for Better Reproductive Health in  African-American Breast Cancer Survi

Sisters Network, M. D. Anderson Team Up  for Better Reproductive Health in  African-American Breast Cancer Survivors
M. D. Anderson News Release 01/10/02

One of the nation's largest African-American women's breast cancer advocacy organizations is teaming with researchers at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center on a new research study to improve quality of life for African-American breast cancer survivors.

The Houston affiliate chapter of Sisters Network, Inc., is collaborating with M. D. Anderson's Department of Behavioral Science and the Center for Research on Minority Health to evaluate a new program, called Sisters Peer Counseling In Reproductive Health after Treatment (SPIRIT).  The National Cancer Institute is funding SPIRIT, a one-year pilot project.

Researchers are enrolling 142 African-American breast cancer survivors in a free peer-counseling program to address concerns many women feel following treatment, including coping with menopausal symptoms, sexuality, infertility and breast cancer risk among family members.

"Although research shows that minority women may have more problems with menopausal symptoms, sexuality and infertility, they are less likely to use specialized medical services that could help," says Dr. Leslie R. Schover, principal investigator for the study and associate professor of behavioral science at M. D. Anderson.

SPIRIT is one of the first studies to address ethnic influences on reproductive health after breast cancer, according to researchers and advocates. Researchers hope to improve quality of life for African-American breast cancer survivors.

"There is very little information about African-American survivorship and sexuality, and we are delighted to be a partner in trying to find answers," says Karen Jackson, founder and national president of Sisters Network, an organization with 35 affiliate chapters in cities throughout the nation. "We are committed to increasing local and national attention to the devastating impact of breast cancer on the African-American community," she says.

Women participating in SPIRIT attend three sessions with a trained peer counselor, all of whom are African-American breast cancer survivors. Counselors undergo a 20-hour training program at M. D. Anderson, as well as receive weekly supervision by M. D. Anderson faculty, Dr. Schover says.

The sessions focus on 1) reducing hot flashes and increasing postmenopausal health through
relaxation, stress management and healthy habits, 2) enhancing sexual communication and desire 3) coping with infertility or concerns about healthy pregnancy after breast cancer and 4) understanding genetic cancer risk issues for family members. Participants fill out several questionnaires during the study. 

SPIRIT participants must be African-American breast cancer survivors who were diagnosed at least one year ago, have completed treatment and are disease-free.

"This program is right on time and very necessary," says Jackson, an eight-year breast cancer survivor. "We are proud that several of our Sisters Network members are serving as SPIRIT peer counselors."

Breast cancer is the second most common cancer in women, second only to lung cancer.  About 192,200 women were expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States during 2001, according to the American Cancer Society, and about 40,600 women were expected to die of the disease during the year. About 12,300 women in Texas were expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001, and 2,600 women in Texas were expected to die of the disease.  About 18,100 African-American women were expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999, and about 5,600 were expected to die of the disease.

Additionally, African-American women have not benefited as much as women of other ethnicities from advances in breast cancer treatment and are more likely than Caucasian women to be diagnosed before menopause, Dr. Schover says.

For more information or to enroll in SPIRIT, call 713-745-4274 or visit the SPIRIT website.

1/10/02


© 2014 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center