Curbing Breast Cancer Rates in Our Communities

Guest Commentary

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month


Breast cancer is the most common cancer among American Indian women, but the positive news is many women can survive breast cancer if it’s detected and treated early. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and at the Cherokee Nation we are honoring that mission by better educating our citizens.

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker

We see professional football players on TV wearing pink, and we see the labels on products at the store and the ribbons people have on their cars and clothing. The “going pink” trend is clearly effective. At Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa, guests can stay on a hotel floor decked out in pink amenities, including sheets, pillows and robes. In the casino gift shop, a portion of the proceeds of the pink collectables will go toward the fight to end breast cancer.

Raising awareness is a wonderful thing, but the next step is action.

Through our tribe’s health department, we are encouraging Cherokee women to have regular mammograms, the screening test for breast cancer. This disease is easier to treat and defeat when it’s found in its earliest stages. That testing and early detection means there are more treatment options, which dramatically increase survival rates.

This year, one out of every eight women, regardless of race, will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Across Indian Country it’s even worse, as Native women have significantly lower rates of screening than other races. In addition to low mammography rates, Natives as a whole also suffer from higher obesity rates and are more likely to have unhealthy diets. These are critical factors in battling breast cancer.

The health disparities Native people face are undeniable. That’s why today the Cherokee Nation is working harder than ever before to deliver better health care for our people.

Please help spread the word about preventing breast cancer and the need for regular testing. Make a difference in the life of your wife, mother, daughter or grandmother. As Cherokee people, we all know the importance of women in our matrilineal society. The Cherokee Nation has always revered our women, and that’s why this battle is so important.

There is still much to do in the fight against breast cancer, but I know that together we can make a real difference in defeating this disease. In this fight, if you can detect it, you can treat it, and we can keep our Cherokee people healthier.


Bill John Baker is the principal chief of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma.

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