Breast Cancer Disparities; Treatment Initiation/Delay; Community-Based System Dynamics; Group Model Building; Community-Engaged Research; African American Women


Although patterns of African American and white women breast cancer incidence and mortality in St. Louis, Missouri is consistent with those seen elsewhere in the United States, rates vary greatly across zip codes within the city of St. Louis. North St. Louis, whose neighborhoods are primarily African American, exhibits rates of breast cancer mortality that are among the highest in the city and higher than the state as a whole. Based on information that up to 50% of women in North St. Louis with a suspicious diagnosis of breast cancer never enter treatment, we conducted three 2-hour group model building sessions with 34 community stakeholders (e.g., breast cancer survivors or family members or caregivers and community support members such as navigators) to identify the reasons why African American women do not begin or delay breast cancer treatment. Participant sessions produced a very rich and dynamic causal loop diagram of the system producing disparities in breast cancer mortality in St. Louis. The diagram includes 8 major subsystems, causal links between system factors, and feedback loops, all of which shed light on treatment delays/initiation. Our work suggests that numerous intersecting factors contribute to not seeking treatment, which in turn may contribute to African American and white disparities in mortality.