Fighting breast cancer and LGBTQ stigma

Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. mobile mammogram unit offers free services to LGBTQ community at Creating Change conference

Seeking health care services can often be challenging for members of the LGBTQ community. Discrimination and ignorance can be barriers to care for this group, particularly, when it comes to seeking preventive care like screenings for breast cancer. Which is how a partnership was born between the National LBGTQ Task Force’s Creating Change Conference and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.’s mammogram mobile unit.

Fighting breast cancer and LGBTQ stigma“Alpha Kappa Alpha’s mission is service to all mankind and all mankind means all people,” said Ora Douglass, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority International Program Chairperson. “The objective of the mobile mammography unit is to serve communities that are often underserved.”

The sorority offered free 3D mammograms to 100 Creating Change conference attendees. Cindy Elizabeth from Austin, Tex. was one of the first to sign up for the no-cost services. Elizabeth, a 32-year-old African-American woman, is in a high-risk group for breast cancer, but can’t afford to pay for a mammogram.

“It’s important that people in marginalized communities receive these kinds of services because oftentimes they don’t have access. I have a family history of breast cancer, but my insurance won’t cover my mammograms because of my age. So, I think this is awesome.”

Douglass says some members of the transgender community will shy away from getting a mammogram because of negative perceptions from the general public. A Dutch study shows that there is an increased risk of breast cancer in trans women when compared with cisgender men, and a lower risk in trans men compared with cisgender women.

According to AKA Member Edith P. Mitchell, MD, breast cancer has a higher mortality rate in the African-American community. This, a lack of access to care, and discrimination compound the challenges that LGBTQ people face. In Our Own Voice works to uplift the intersectionality of the lives of Black women, femmes, queer, trans and gender non-conforming people, and youth.

“It’s how we can all intersect and work together. This is not a siloed world and, for the LGBTQ community, it’s so important because very few medical organizations collaborate with them in healthcare,” said Dr. Mitchell. “We want to provide our expertise, our resources, not only to Black women, but to the LGBTQ community in general; so that’s why we’re here.”

I love it when my worlds collide. As the vice president of communications for In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda I was an attendee at Creating Change and for more than three decades I have been a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha, Sorority. Watching this partnership in action makes me even prouder, as I strive to live my best Reproductive Justice life.