Sherrie Flynt Wallington, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Project Title

Breast Density and Me: A Pilot Educational Intervention

Named Award

Marcia and Frank Carlucci Charitable Foundation


Associate Professor


The George Washington University, Washington, D.C.

My “Why”

Personal experiences have influenced my career goals, especially since learning of loved ones who were diagnosed with breast and prostate cancers. I firmly believe that cancer is not primarily an individual struggle, but rather a collective battle for entire families. Everyone’s time and effort becomes focused on addressing treatments and solutions to restore the health of those diagnosed. I chose to dedicate my primary research to educating individuals and families about cancer prevention and risk reduction, particularly in medically underserved communities, to help other families avoid this struggle.

My Mission

As a disparity and health equity researcher, I know early detection remains an urgent public health priority. When cancer prevention efforts are delayed or are inaccessible, there is a lower chance of survival, as well as potential treatment issues and higher costs of care. Every opportunity we take to inform and educate the public will help combat cancer, particularly among communities facing barriers to cancer care.

Research Overview

Breasts are made up of dense tissue (milk glands) and not dense tissue (fat deposits). Those with denser breasts have a higher risk of breast cancer, and visibility of masses (including cancer) can be difficult to see on mammograms. In addition, there are significant racial disparities with breast cancer: Black women are 41% more likely to die of breast cancer than white women.

Physicians often fail to explain the significance of breast density, and low-income women with less education are less likely to receive information on breast density. Breast density notification laws do not exist in every state, and messaging varies, as does the knowledge and understanding of the breast density information. But Black and Asian women who learn they have dense breasts are twice as likely to get a mammogram in the future.

We aim to understand how people perceive dense breast policy, breast cancer screening guidelines, and cancer risks. We will highlight the benefits of informing women of minority populations about their breast density and will hopefully increase the frequency of follow-up mammograms to detect more breast cancers early.

Why Funding Matters

With the support of the Prevent Cancer Foundation, our study will inform women, particularly women of color, in medically underserved wards in the District of Columbia, about their breast density, and will promote follow-up visits and mammograms to save lives by early intervention.

Women in medically underserved communities tend to prioritize necessities for their families over their own health and face many barriers to health care. Our project is critical to increasing breast health literacy, including education about breast density and breast cancer risks, and providing screening.

My Hope

My hope is that all women will become more knowledgeable about overall breast health and breast density, including potential risks for breast cancer. Specific anticipated outcomes are increased breast density knowledge, motivation for screening, early detection, and breast density literacy.