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Death in Chicago

Breast Cancer Disparities


Tiha M. Long
Comprehensive Cancer Center
University of Chicago Medicine


This interrupted case study explores the general topic of health disparities by focusing on the specific example of breast cancer mortality disparity between black and white women in the city of Chicago, Illinois. The case encourages the use of analytic and critical thinking skills to analyze data, develop and revise hypotheses, and ultimately propose solutions to enhance health equity. The case tells the story of “Dr. Gonzalez,” a beleaguered medical resident who encounters first-hand the socioeconomic and genetic factors that impact breast cancer disparities in her hometown of Chicago. Students follow her journey as she analyzes data and consolidates information from various sources. The case was written for an undergraduate cancer biology course, and could also be used for courses in human biology, epidemiology, genetics, and healthcare policy. It could easily be adapted for different audiences by omitting sections or by adding resources.


  • Demonstrate an understanding of cancer health disparities.
  • Analyze data to determine whether a cancer disparity is present.
  • Create and revise hypotheses to explain the existence of breast cancer disparities.
  • Recommend solutions to address health disparities and promote health equity.
  • Compare and assess hypotheses and recommendations.
  • Access and incorporate primary research or primary data to improve hypotheses and propose solutions.
  • Utilize primary literature to investigate the role of BRCA1/BRCA2 in breast cancer, focusing on mutation allele frequency in various ethnic groups in order to determine the impact of genetics in breast cancer disparity.


Health disparity; health equity; cancer disparity; breast cancer; BRCA; genetics; Chicago; social determinants of health;

Topical Areas

Social justice issues

Educational Level

Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division, Professional (degree program)



Type / Methods

Analysis (Issues), Interrupted



Subject Headings

Biology (General)  |   Cell Biology  |   Genetics / Heredity  |   Interdisciplinary Sciences  |   Molecular Biology  |   Public Health  |  

Date Posted


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The following video(s) are recommended for use in association with this case study.

  • Where Do We Go from Here? Health Disparities
    Disparities in healthcare negatively impact minority populations including the Black and Latinx communities. This panel of medical professionals discusses health disparities, and explores solutions, using the coronavirus pandemic as an example. Running time: 28:33 min. Produced by Indianapolis Public Media, PBS, 2020.