LISTEN: Breast Cancer and Race: Disparities and Mental Health Effects

Lola Fayanju, MD


Lola Fayanju, MD, MA, MPHS, is assistant professor of surgery at the Duke University School of Medicine. In addition to treating people with breast cancer surgery, Fayanju’s research interests include using big data and sophisticated analyses to reduce disparities in outcomes after breast cancer diagnoses and to improve the value of breast cancer care. When she was a general surgery resident at Washington University in St. Louis, her research found that women treated by safety-net primary care doctors in the greater St. Louis area were more likely to be diagnosed with more advanced-stage breast cancer than women who had private insurance. She also looked at the reasons behind this disparity, and her work led to an overhaul of the referral process for underserved women in the St. Louis area.

Breast cancer is a crisis in its own right. Then came the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused many doctors’ offices and treatment facilities to close, so breast cancer screenings and treatments have been delayed for months. When some areas were just starting to schedule appointments again, many people experienced additional trauma due to the killing of George Floyd and potentially even more limited access to medical facilities. All of this fear, anxiety, and uncertainty can lead to sky high stress and despair levels, especially for people of color who have been diagnosed with breast cancer.

In this podcast, Fayanju talks about some of the disparities we see in breast cancer, as well as some ways to ease stress and despair.

Listen to the podcast (recorded June 5, 2020) to hear her explain:

  • some of the disparities in breast cancer care and some of the reasons behind the disparities
  • the idea of choice and how that affects the diversity of enrollment in clinical trials
  • the resources she recommends to her patients who are feeling stress and anxiety