Data show a Black woman diagnosed with breast cancer is 71% more likely to die from the disease than a white woman (source: JAMA Oncol. 2021;7(3):355–356. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2020.7113). That gap will soon be closing if Jamil Rivers has anything to say about it.

Rivers is a metastatic breast cancer survivor and founder of The Chrysalis Initiative, a nonprofit focused on erasing breast cancer disparities, so that all patients receive the care they deserve regardless of race. The initiative connects patients to the tools, knowledge, and resources they need during their journey with breast cancer. By providing Black women (and other women of color) with the opportunity, and education needed, to navigate breast cancer care and to self-advocate, the nonprofit organization is working to close gaps and improve outcomes. Chrysalis also intervenes directly with breast cancer teams through its clinical equity assessment/audit, in which it identifies and helps eliminate race-based shortcomings in care at breast cancer centers, working collaboratively and cooperatively with providers and administrators. 

Exact Sciences got to know Rivers and The Chrysalis Initiative through our joint, ongoing efforts to address disparities and improve health equity in the cancer experience and in cancer outcomes. At Exact, we seek to improve equity in all phases of cancer care — before, during and after a diagnosis. 

A new key part to The Chrysalis Initiative’s patient support is the BC Navi app, available for mobile or desktop. The app supplements the program’s coaching and counseling of patients and adds tracking that contributes to the significant data-gathering efforts of the initiative. BC Navi app also facilitates a peer-to-peer network and community, allowing breast cancer patients to share their individual experiences with others.

 “Striving to overcome barriers in healthcare and achieve health equity, we are looking to work hand-in-hand with those in the community who are making a positive difference,” said Stephanie Birkey Reffey, Director of Patient Advocacy & Alliance Relations at Exact Sciences. “The Chrysalis Initiative knows first-hand the challenges women and the Black community face when trying to navigate cancer care.  With their experience, they have the trust of the community and can step in and offer solutions for both patients and providers that make a measurable difference.  We are proud to partner with them.”

 With the support of Exact Sciences, The Chrysalis Initiative expects to serve some 500 patients in 2022, expanding patient education, challenging institutional realities, and reducing barriers to full-quality care for all breast cancer patients.

 “We are at an important turning point for equity in health and healthcare today, where we finally have open acknowledgement of the systemic bias that pervades delivery and provider interactions. And, along with this awareness now comes a willingness to change,” says Rivers. “Interest and support in this cause is exploding, but we have to use this moment to put it into action. We need to make evidence-based accountability for equitable care and research an integral part of the healthcare mainstream.”

 To learn more about The Chrysalis Initiative, visit:

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