Over the next 10 weeks Americans will hear from both Presidential campaigns about who has better plans for the economy and healthcare, among other topics. No matter which side you are on, a stark reality exists: each day, thousands of women are unable to access breast health screening or cancer treatment. Currently the government helps low income or uninsured women access breast health care through the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP). In 2010, this program helped more than 326,000 women get screened for breast cancer, but the NBCCEDP estimates it is serving only 14% of those eligible.
Charitable foundations can help fill these gaps. The Avon Foundation for Women supports breast cancer research to understand the causes and prevention of breast cancer and, at the same time supports programs for screening and treatment. The Avon Breast Health Outreach Program (Avon BHOP) was established in 2000 to help women in need access mammography screening and cancer treatment. The program has educated millions of women about breast health and linked 1.1 million women from all 50 states to screening — women from rural Nebraska to the deserts of Arizona, to inner-city Atlanta and New York and everywhere in between.
The need is great. According to the latest US Census report Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage, in 2010 nearly 50 million Americans (or 16.3%) were uninsured. Of the women served by Avon BHOP, two-thirds do not have insurance, more than half live in households that earn less than $20,000 a year, and a large portion are women of color or do not speak English as their primary language. Local programs can be easily found on the Avon BHOP interactive map.
As part of the Avon Foundation funding criteria, women and men (men get breast cancer, too) with a suspicious finding during screening must be provided with additional diagnostics and necessary care. The Avon Foundation helps support this stage of the “breast cancer journey” by funding a network of 70 “safety net” hospitals that serve those in need, regardless of insurance status or ability to pay. The funded areas include the purchase of new, state-of-the-art equipment and staffing “Patient Navigators” to assist patients in navigating the medical (and financial) maze of breast cancer treatment, experts and appointments, such as the radiologist who performs the mammogram or ultrasound, the surgeon who will do a biopsy, the pathologist who reads the biopsy report, and then the oncologist, surgeon and radiation oncologist who provide treatment.
In this election year and every year, the Avon Foundation will continue to do its part to ensure quality care for all, and we encourage other organizations and individuals to play a part in addressing this widespread need.