Support Black patients who are disproportionately affected by multiple myeloma | Opinion

“We all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value no matter what their color.” — Dr. Maya Angelou

African Americans are predisposed to multiple myeloma, a blood cancer, however awareness of this disease is extremely low among this population.

HealthTree Moves for African American Myeloma Awareness – the first Virtual 5K/1M event, on Aug. 13 – spotlights myeloma.

To participate or donate to this event, visit:

This event is necessary because health disparities exist for African Americans in healthcare.

African American lives are part of the myeloma tapestry and these lives are equally important, however long-standing disparities in the medical field serve as barriers for Blacks from diagnosis through treatment.

Outcomes are not always optimal due to misdiagnosis and less aggressive treatments. Lack of awareness of multiple myeloma in the Black community and delayed diagnosis also create circumstances that have a direct negative impact on this population.

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What are the statistics of multiple myeloma in Black patients?

As it pertains to Black people, how can we get care for multiple myeloma if we don’t even know that such a cancer exists?

August will mark 30 years since Stanley and Tiffany Anderson wed, and five years since the late physician succumbed to multiple myeloma.
August will mark 30 years since Stanley and Tiffany Anderson wed, and five years since the late physician succumbed to multiple myeloma.

How can we watch for signs and symptoms if we’ve never even heard of what those symptoms might be? How can we insist on diagnostic testing for the disease when healthcare professionals might dismiss our symptoms?

When the disparities are coupled with the following facts, we know we must act.

  • Blacks have the highest risk of multiple myeloma than any race/ethnic group in the world

  • Multiple myeloma is two to three times more common in African Americans

  • African Americans generally present with multiple myeloma four years younger than their Caucasian counterparts

  • While the national population of African Americans within the U.S. is only 13.4%, Black myeloma patients make up 19% of the US myeloma population

HealthTree is committed to elevating awareness, education, outreach and advocacy for African American patients and caregivers.

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Why this cause is personal for me

In January, I started this role as director of HealthTree’s Black Myeloma Health Initiative. As such, I oversee this program and serve as a voice for and resource to all African American patients and caregivers.

Marsha Calloway-Campbell
Marsha Calloway-Campbell

I’m dedicated to increasing the awareness and education in our Black communities across the country. I’m passionate about helping provide resources for Black patients for all things myeloma and to empower them to help increase chances of more positive outcomes.

This is professional for me; however, this is also personal. In 2017, I became a caregiver to my husband who has multiple myeloma. When diagnosed, we had never heard of the disease. HealthTree has been extremely helpful and informative, providing resources and support as we navigate our new normal.

I challenge each of you to join me in this virtual 5K/1M awareness event as we make African Americans more aware and educated about myeloma and its precursor conditions, MGUS and smoldering myeloma.

Help our Black patients gain the knowledge of all resources, therapies and treatments that are available to aid them on this journey. Register to participate or just donate!

In the Black community, a sentiment is ever-present that “we are our brother’s keeper.” We must look out for each other. We must help each other when we can. We must share relevant information for the good of us all.

We can all play a role in strengthening the African American myeloma community. This is a difficult journey and we need support from everyone.

Our woven myeloma tapestry must represent us all in the most equitable way possible. Our goal is to break down barriers that prevent this from happening.

Marsha Calloway-Campbell is the African American Myeloma Initiative director at HealthTree Foundation.

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Multiple myeloma: Black patients are disproportionately affected