Eastern Michigan University receives $361,000 grant to improve mammography screening for Asian American women

by Ward Mullens, Published May 15, 2009

YPSILANTI —Eastern Michigan University Professor Tsu-Yin Wu knows first-hand that setting up an appointment for a mammogram can be difficult. Although fluent in English and familiar with the health system, Wu struggled to find the right person to help make an initial appointment when she needed one.

Wu got her appointment and is now helping other Asian American women, thanks to a $361,000 grant she received from the National Cancer Institute/National Institute of Health.

The two-year grant, EMU’s first award of federal stimulus funds under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, will help address the need for research assessing the tailored communications to increase mammography screening among Asian American women.

“Early detection truly helps make a significant impact in survival rates,” said Tsu-Yin Wu, associate professor of nursing at EMU. “If detected early, the five-year survival rate for breast cancer exceeds 96 percent. While Caucasian women are screened at a rate of 75 percent, only about 50 percent of Asian Americans are screened for breast cancer.”

“We need to find an innovative intervention to address the critical gap in health disparities,” said Wu, a recently appointed member of Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s Asian Pacific American Affairs Commission.  “We need to tackle multiple layers of issues to promote screening for this underserved population, including language and cultural barriers as well as misconceptions for Asian American women. They (Asian American women) think that if they feel okay they do not need to be screened.”

The screening disparities lead to some alarming statistics.

Asian women who have immigrated to the United States have breast cancer incidence rates that are six times higher than those for Asian women who remain in their native countries. While breast cancer mortality rates have decreased for Caucasian and Hispanic women from 1990 to 1995, mortality rates rose for Asian and Pacific Islander women during the same period.

Wu said her research would help determine an effective way to improve mammography screening for Asian American women, which could result in improved survival rates and a decrease in mortality.

Wu said that, with computer-assisted technology and tailored communication principles, this funded project aims to design and test an individually tailored telephone-counseling program. Each participant in the intervention group will get an individualized session that will be best suited for her needs and address various barriers and misconceptions for breast cancer screening. The ultimate goal is to find a method that will reduce screening disparities and eventually save more lives.

 “We want to significantly increase survival rates and bridge the gap between different groups of people,” she said.

Ward Mullens

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