June 17-23, 2021 marks the first National Black Family Cancer Awareness Week – #BlackFamCan – an initiative by the FDA’s Oncology Center of Excellence, Project Community, to increase cancer awareness in one of the most vulnerable segments of the US population. The KCA is supporting this initiative because increased awareness about the risks and symptoms of kidney cancer has the potential for earlier diagnoses that can prolong and even save lives.
Traditionally, Black people have the shortest cancer-related survival of any racial and ethnic group in the US for most cancers and African Americans have the highest mortality rate. Black men have the highest cancer incidence rate.
Kidney cancer specifically is more common in Black people than in those of other ethnicities and the death rate is higher, often because the cancer is diagnosed at a later stage, which decreases the chances of survival, according to the American Cancer Society.
An additional facet of kidney cancer that impacts the Black community is the link between sickle cell trait (SCT) and a rare, aggressive form of kidney cancer called renal medullary carcinoma (RMC). SCT, while typically benign and tested for at birth, can lead to diseases that cause anemia, pain, stroke, and other problems. Most people who are diagnosed with RMC have SCT. This group tends to be young Black men or adolescents. The KCA recently partnered with the Sickle Cell Disease Foundation of America for “KNOW & TELL”, a campaign encouraging people to know their SCT status, know the symptoms of RMC, and talk about it with their family and their doctors in the hope of catching any disease early – the best chance at increasing positive health outcomes through treatment as well as increased research.
This year, #BlackFamCan aims to build knowledge about clinical trial participation as well as the importance of donating specimens to national genetic databases for cancer research. These databases are often lacking samples from underrepresented populations, including underrepresented races and ethnicities, people with rare cancer types, and people in rural communities who lack access to large cancer centers with disease specialists.
#BlackFamCan activities should occur any where people are interested in increasing cancer awareness efforts. In homes, backyards, picnic sites, public parks, walking trails, venues where people can safely gather to talk about their family’s cancer history or create educational projects and programs or inform health and wellness ministries. The key is making these crucial conversations community-based, meaningful, informative and enjoyable. Cancer awareness conversations may result in a decreased cancer mortality rate among all racial and ethnic groups for all cancers combined and increase life expectancy, including among Black Americans.
Find more resources or connect with support through the KCA’s Patient Navigator Program.