November 1994
Media Contact:Karin Twilde
Phone: (410) 955-1287
E-mail: KTwilde@welchlink.welch.jhu.edu

The Johns Hopkins Oncology Center is recognizing Breast Cancer Awareness Month by providing free breast cancer screening to low-income and uninsured women.

Through a Maryland Health Resources Cost Review Commission (HSCRC) grant obtained in 1992, the Center provides clinical breast exams, instruction on breast self-examination, mammography, and prevention counseling to women in East Baltimore.

More than 1,000 women have been screened, and approximately 15 cancers detected. This year, using the theme of Once is Not Enough, the Center outreach staff, led by Barbara Ashley, R.N., is encouraging those screened in prior years to return for follow-up care. "We have seen women in their sixties who have never had a mammogram because they can't afford one. We want to see these women, and any women who are not getting appropriate care due to financial reasons, once a year, so that if they do develop breast cancer, we can detect it in the earliest and most curable stage," says Ashley, clinical nurse coordinator.

She is offering food coupons and free lunch as an incentive to come back for follow-up care in the month of October. Ashley has enlisted the help of the Julie Center, a community center at Washington and Fayette Streets, whose volunteers, known as neighborhood health providers, are visible on street corners, in grocery stores and throughout East Baltimore neighborhoods, handing out literature about the screening program and scheduling appointments for women. "On several occasions, our volunteers have personally brought women to the Center who were reluctant to come alone. They are amazing. We could never do it without them," says Ashley.

Approximately 182,000 American women are diagnosed each year with breast cancer. In Maryland, which has one of the highest incidence rates in the United States, 3,500 women learned last year that they had breast cancer. When detected in its early stage, breast cancer can be cured as often as 90 percent of the time. Once the cancer has spread beyond the breast, however, it is frequently fatal.

Women in East Baltimore have a much higher rate of death from breast cancer than women in surrounding areas. Ashley and other experts believe that one reason for these grim statistics is lack of access to the medical system because of their inability to pay. "The goal of our program is to change these statistics by making breast cancer screening available to these women," says Ashley.

The Hopkins program is one of several throughout the state funded by the HSCRC. Any low-income women, 40 years or older, can take advantage of the program. The grant covers all costs incurred, including biopsy. Women who need additional therapy are eligible for a treatment fund through the State of Maryland.

For more information about the program, income criteria or to schedule an appointment, call (410) 955-4792.

-- JHMI --
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