How One Komen-Funded Program Changed a Life – As Told by a Komen Grantee
Being unemployed, lacking resources to get regular breast screenings, and not being provided with education about maintaining their breast health, puts women at higher risk for being diagnosed with breast cancer in its late stages – when chances of survival are lower.
Jewish Family Services established the Women’s Health Network, in partnership with Komen Central and South Jersey, to increase access to breast health education and mammography screenings for underserved women over the age of 40. The Atlantic and Cape May County-based group aims to meet the needs of minorities and at-risk populations by decreasing barriers to care for women affected by mental health issues. Last year, Jewish Family Services educated 473 women and facilitated annual and diagnostic screenings for 255 women.
This is Sally’s story…
Sally is 63, an Atlantic City resident. Several years ago Sally was laid off from her casino job, after 24 years in housekeeping, and lost her health benefits. Often, casino employees fear asking for time off given five casinos closed, the high unemployment [rate], and they easily could get fired or put on probation for taking time off. Sally’s last annual mammogram was Dec’ 2010. Given her family history of breast cancer, she was nervous. She knew the recommendation was yearly screenings, but she didn’t know there were financial options for women without insurance.
Sally is not alone. There are a large number of women in Atlantic County that do not pay the attention that they should to their breast health because they have lost their jobs or do not have the proper resources to get regular screenings.
I met Sally as she was passing the [Mobile Mammography] van one day when we were scheduled in Atlantic City, she did not have an appointment. She could get screened using the Komen grant. Additional studies and possibly an ultrasound were needed. With encouragement she returned and finished her screening, she again got a letter that instructed her to call the office and schedule a needle biopsy. Nurse navigation has supported Sally every step of the way and so we made the appointment, and had the biopsy. The results were positive.
Sally has cancer.
In the past six years, funding from the Komen Central and South Jersey to JFS has aided in providing mammograms and screenings to women who do not have the resources to get it done on their own. Over 2,000 women have been given access to educational workshops and consultations through JFS, and over 750 of them have had mammograms and tests that have potentially saved their lives.
She asked if we could be her advocate when she goes for her surgical oncology consult. In June when Sally has her surgery she asked that we be there when she wakes up and take her home. She has faith and believes that we were put on the street at the same time for a reason.
“I am so happy I have someone to call and share this breast cancer journey with,” Sally said.