Cancer death rate among blacks in D.C. exceeds national rate

A new report shows that the cancer death rate among African Americans in Washington, D.C. exceeds the national rate.

Stephen Jefferson, 46, has fibrosis of the lungs, one of many complications of his cancer. The southeast D.C. resident was diagnosed in 2009 with stage four hodgkins lymphoma.

“I was one of the dumb ones and I say that and it’s true because I didn’t go get a physical, didn’t go get screened, didn’t go get checked,” he says.

That all plays a big role in the sharp cancer disparity between blacks and whites in the District.

Blacks in the District are 54-percent more likely to get cancer than whites, much higher than the 4-percent difference nationwide. Blacks in D.C. are 90- percent more likely to die of cancer, almost five times the national rate.

“That’s frightening and without some sustainability, money, we’re going to be talking about the same thing ten years from now,” says Dr. John Lunch, chairman of the D.C. Cancer Consortium.

Blacks in D.C. are more than twice as likely to smoke as whites and three times more apt to miss care due to costs.

Many private doctors don’t accept Medicaid and there are other obstacles: transportation, access, daycare and overall awareness.

Stephen Jefferson wants to see his son grow up and says he’s learned a hard lesson about health.

“If I’d caught this from zero through one or two, probably wouldn’t even have this today, but let my mistakes help you out,” he says.