Roshni Kamta's Story: Breast Cancer Treatment As a Woman of Color

She realized breast cancer in women of color was underrepresented—so she became an advocate.

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Roshni Kamta often felt like an outsider during her breast cancer treatment. Diagnosed at age 22, she was significantly younger than other patients at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. Furthermore, Kamta is a woman of color. During her journey, she often felt that the community often misrepresented or ignored breast cancer in women of color.

“It was hard for me because I'm an Indian woman and there are disparities in our healthcare system that some medical teams don't take into consideration,” says Kamta.

Triple-Negative Breast Cancer in Women of Color

Kamta’s diagnosis was a subtype known as triple-negative breast cancer. This type of breast cancer doesn’t have any of the three commonly known “receptors” that fuel other breast cancers: estrogen, progesterone, and the human epidermal growth factor.

Other types of breast cancer that have these receptors have specific treatments that are targeted against the receptors. Because triple-negative breast cancer doesn’t have those receptors, it’s typically treated with chemotherapy, which is less targeted but still effective. (Learn more about treatment for triple-negative breast cancer here).

The other things that make triple-negative breast cancer unique are that it tends to be more aggressive, it tends to affect women at younger ages, and it more commonly affects women of color, specifically African American women. Unfortunately, people of color are more likely to face obstacles to health care that may prevent them from getting an early diagnosis or timely treatment.

A Space for Women of Color

Although the breast cancer community can provide immeasurable support for some people, it may not be welcoming to everyone. As a woman of color, Kamta described the community as “culty.” She felt in order to participate that she had to be super positive, wear pink, and do yoga.

“I’m not that type of person,” she says. “I think the healthcare system can engage with people of color and people at a disadvantage … in a way that makes it more accessible and more welcoming.”

Advocating for Other Women of Color

Kamta, now a breast cancer advocate, experienced many things during her treatment that had her feel like an outsider. For example, she notes that images of breast cancer symptoms are often on white skin. Experiences like these were what compelled her to be an advocate for others.

“The reason why I'm so vocal about my cancer journey is because I wanted other Indian women or women of color to see someone who looks like them and who knows how they feel, and I wanted to be honest about what I'm going through,” says Kamta.

For this reason, Kamta supports the idea of having patient advocates in the medical community. She describes patient advocates as “someone who's already been through the treatment or diagnosis” who can “be in that room with that patient, so that patient feels like they have someone there on their side and not feel so alone.”

Kamta hopes to bring awareness to the cultural disparities in breast cancer treatment. Furthermore, she hopes to see changes that will help women of color feel more welcome, understood, and cared for. Patient advocates could play a significant role in making that happen.

Learn more about how doctors are addressing cultural disparities in health care here.