Saving Lives: A Breast Cancer Awareness Advocate Works to Educate Black Women

By Coleman, Chrisena | Black Enterprise, October 2013 | Go to article overview

Saving Lives: A Breast Cancer Awareness Advocate Works to Educate Black Women


Coleman, Chrisena, Black Enterprise


NAME Karen Eubanks Jackson

JOB Founder & CEO of Sisters Network Inc., a national African American breast cancer survivorship nonprofit organization

AGE 70

AFTER YEARS OF TESTING AND NEGATIVE RESULTS, KAREN EUBANKS JACKSON DEVELOPED breast cancer at 50 and beat it. Her organization was created to bring awareness to the unique challenges that black women encounter when battling the disease.

A family history, negative test results, and a burning intuition: Eubanks Jackson began her annual mammograms at 35 years old because she knew her family had a history of breast cancer. For years Jackson's annual test came back negative. "There were no signs of calcification or breast cancer, but in my spirit I always felt something was wrong," recalls Jackson, who felt a mass in her breast for years. "When I turned 50, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and the only reason it was detected was because I demanded another test and an ultrasound was recommended. I was diagnosed with stage 2 ductal carcinoma."

A new awareness: Jackson, whose family also has a history of community organizing and activism, educated herself about the disease, treatments, and survival rates. She quickly found huge disparities associated with breast cancer and African American women. I knew educating African American women about breast cancer and ultrasound testing was my passion."

The start of a women's network: Prior to her diagnosis, Jackson was a social worker who also had a profitable hair weaving business in Los Angeles. After her diagnosis, she moved to Houston to get support from her family. "During my personal fight to survive breast cancer, I recognized a staggering breast cancer mortality rate for African American women, and limited culturally sensitive material." In 1994, Jackson founded Sisters Network Inc. to ensure that African American women who have a breast cancer diagnosis receive quality medical, social, and financial support. Next year, Sisters Network, with 3,000 members and chapters in 40 cities in 22 states, will celebrate its 20th anniversary.

Startup challenges: The biggest challenge for Jackson over the past two decades has been raising money. …

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