Know Your History to Change History

Rosalyn Williams was 39 years old when her good friend, as only a good friend would do, expressed that Rosalyn needed to get a new bra because she was spilling out of hers. Rosalyn had tripled in her breast cup size without rosalyngaining much weight and was in denial that something was wrong. She went to her doctor and was diagnosed with fibrocystic breast disease, which are breasts composed of tissue that feels lumpy or rope-like in texture. At the time, Rosalyn had no idea that breast cancer ran in her family – both grandmothers and her great aunt died of breast cancer. It just wasn’t something that was discussed in her family. Since she was unaware of her family history, her doctors were also unaware, thus leaving them confident in declaring the lumps were benign.

It wasn’t until the lumps began to grow even larger that the doctors decided to remove some of them. When they did this, inside of them were cancerous tumors in both breasts. Rosalyn was diagnosed with Stage II and had a bilateral mastectomy. Sometimes families, and African American families in particular, are private and quiet about their health histories, especially between generations and particularly when the family members are men. But Roslayn wants to encourage everyone to understand that knowing your family history is imperative to understanding your own risk of breast cancer.

While it is true that we don’t know what causes breast cancer, we know that having a family history of breast, prostate or ovarian cancer may increase your risk of breast cancer. Talk with your family to learn more about your family’s health history, and pass that information along to other family members. If you are a breast cancer survivor, be sure to tell younger generations of your family about your experience with breast cancer. Even if you are not comfortable talking about the details, it is important that they know their own family health history and can continue to pass that information along to younger generations.

Circle of Promise

Circle of Promise is a statewide initiative to addresses breast cancer disparities at the system, community, and individual levels, specifically targeting African American women, 40 and above, who are rarely or never screened, low-income, uninsured or recipients of Medi-Cal, in order to provide access to breast health care services and quality health care. The goal of the Initiative is to empower African American women with the knowledge and resources to enter and seamlessly move through a quality, culturally competent and coordinated system of breast health care. The Initiative, launched by the seven California affiliates of Susan G. Komen, is funded by a grant from Anthem Blue Cross Foundation, L.L.C.  Learn More