Monday, April 19, 2010

Reaching Underserved Populations with Lifesaving Breast Care Information

Earlier this week, I had the privilege of attending an afternoon tea at Northwest Hospital featuring a talk by Sandra Millon Underwood, R.N., Ph.D., F.A.A.N. Dr. Underwood is the 2010 Komen Visiting Professor, and she was making a stop at Northwest during her tour through Maryland.

As a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Dr. Underwood’s area of research is how to reduce – and even eliminate – disparities between breast cancer detection and treatment among various socioeconomic and cultural populations.

When breast cancer is spotted early, the opportunity for survival increases, and over 98 percent of early detected cases of breast cancer are cured. However, if a woman is not getting regular mammograms – whether it’s because she does not have health insurance, cannot afford her co-pays or doesn’t understand she needs to have regular screening – this will result in breast cancer being caught much later than it otherwise would be.

“Pink is not the only color associated with breast cancer,” says Dr. Underwood.

That’s because black and green also have significance. While white women overall have higher incidence rates of breast cancer than black women, black women under age 50 not only have higher rates of breast cancer, but they are also more likely to die from the disease. For those whose issue is green – they cannot afford regular screening mammograms and treatment if breast cancer is detected – Dr. Underwood puts them in touch with a Center for Disease Control and Prevention screening program that provides these resources.

Women who know their individual levels of risk – based on ethnicity, family history, and health and lifestyle factors – will have a great understanding of what needs to be done to catch cancer early.

Dr. Underwood also spoke about her efforts to reach out to the women on the maintenance and janitorial staff at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. These were women who set up and broke down the university’s community health educational events, but they were never encouraged to attend the events themselves. After talking with one of the janitors, Dr. Underwood realized that she needed to hold events specifically for these unreached women. She even hosted events in the middle of the night (2 – 3 a.m.) so that all of the female shift workers could have the opportunity to learn what they needed to know about breast cancer.

Are you interested in becoming a team captain for the 2010 Race for the Cure? Click here to sign up to attend an informational meeting.

To learn more about breast cancer services at LifeBridge Health, call 410-601-WELL (9355) or click here.

-Holly Hosler

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