In the third of a series on where Komen Southern Arizona's money goes, we profile Chiricahua Community Health Center
It takes our partners at Chiricahua Community Health Center two to two and a half hours to drive up to Tucson to visit Komen SAZ. Imagine if that was a woman being treated in Tucson for breast cancer.
That's why providing services in rural areas is so important, say the CCHC staff, based near the Mexico border at Douglas. The Center uses Komen Southern Arizona's grant - raised through events like our Race for the Cure - to pay for treatment for under-insured and uninsured breast cancer patients. Last year the $50,000 grant helped three women.
Komen money also funds half of the full-time salary of Terry Vera, a breast health patient navigator at the clinic. Her job is to aid patients and their families in navigating through the continuum of care of breast cancer.
Right now Terry is trying to reach out to thousands of local women to let them know about the importance of breast exams and mammograms.
But the mission is a tough one. About 40% to 42% of women with insurance or AHCCCS coverage get regular mammograms. The clinic's goal is to raise that to 68% by 2014. Fifty per cent of the population the clinic serves is uninsured, 24% are on Medicaid, and of the patients served in 2011, 65% were below the federal poverty level.
Health is not a priority for many of these women, say the staff. Especially in a real border town, for many women the priority is to take care of family and home first, they say.
"They're saying to me 'I didn't know I had to have a mammogram yearly, and these are women in their late 40s, early 50s already," says Terry. Added to that, she says, many women who agree to come for a screening end up not showing up.
Breast Assured Foundation
’15 minutes could save your life’ proclaims the home page of Breast Assured Foundation’s website.
It’s a message Susan G. Komen for the Cure Southern Arizona pushes too: that early detection of breast cancer, through mammograms, really does work.
Breast Assured Foundation uses grants like the one given by Komen SAZ to send mobile mammogram coaches to women who can’t readily get screened.
“There are all sorts of barriers for women in rural areas: transportation, childcare, expense,” says Kristin Heffern, director of the Tucson-based Foundation.
She says the Foundation’s main focus is on under- and uninsured women. The grant from Komen Southern Arizona helps women in Graham and Greenlee counties, where mammography rates are low and some women would otherwise face a two- to four-hour drive to get a screening.
Breast Assured intends to lift mammography rates there by 15% by next Spring. Kristin says she expects to easily exceed that, “because there are so few mammograms going on in these areas.”
Says Kristin: “If it’s been more than a year since they were screened, I ask them why. Fear is one reason, no time is another, or that they put everybody else in front of their own needs, whether that’s their children or their parents or husband. They come last.”
Breast Assured Foundation was founded in 2010 by Assured Imaging Women’s Wellness, the company that provides technicians and radiologists for the mobile coaches. Kristin says the digital equipment used is state-of-the-art, and women receive their mammogram results in 7 to 14 days from the screening.
Kristin is a long-time supporter and participant of Komen’s Race for the Cure and “a philanthropist my entire life.”
* Contact Breast Assured Foundation at 8710 N Thornydale Rd #100, Tucson, AZ 85704. Tel: (855) 744-6678. www.breastassuredfoundation.org
Tucson Medical Center
We visited the staff of TMC's Breast Health and Education program to ask them: what are the deterrents women see to getting a mammogram?
Only 4 out of 10 women eligible for a mammogram in Southern Arizona are getting them. That’s according to the most recent research collated by Susan G. Komen for the Cure Southern Arizona, one of the organizations that provides funds to Tucson Medical Center’s Breast Center.
For us at Komen SAZ, the burning question is ‘Why?’ Why when awareness about breast cancer seems so high? Why when thousands every year take part in our Race for the Cure at Reid Park? Why when the evidence is so strong that early detection protects against the disease?
Fear of pain - and with it the assumption that mammograms will be uncomfortable - is just one of the deterrents, say the technicians who work at the Breast Center.
But they stress that mammos are not only necessary, they’re vastly improved on the old days.
“They’re quicker, they’re more pleasant,” says Jeanne Wilcoxson, a breast technician there. “Mammograms nowadays take just 10 minutes, compared to the 20 minutes they used to.”
Added to that, they’re more comfortable, says Jeanne. Thanks to leaps in technology, the plastic ‘paddle’ that presses down onto the breast is more contoured to the breast. And women have the option of also using a MammoPad, a soft foam pad that creates a cushion between them and the machine. Staff says theirs is one of just two facilities in Tucson to use the MammoPad.
The staff at the Breast Center also do breast exams which is a chance for some one-on-one education about breast health, says Karen Narum, nurse practitioner at TMC Women’s Health.
With the money Karen and the rest of the staff received from Komen SAZ last year, they had a goal of performing 275 breast exams on women with no insurance. Thanks to some leftover funding, topped up by the TMC Foundation, they were able to treat 333. Says Karen: “We could probably do two or three times that number if we had the funding,” she says, referring to the increased number of Arizona women being cut from the State’s AHCCCS program, or not being able to afford health insurance.
As for Komen SAZ, the relationship with the Breast Center goes way back. This month marks the 14th anniversary of the Southern Arizona Affiliate funding the center; theirs was among the first grants to be awarded by us. Monies also come from The Avon Foundation and TMC Auxiliary, and the center makes the most of in-kind services from TMC and Radiology Limited.
And it’s not just about the mammos, says Karen. She provides help to patients in navigating what can be a complicated and frustrating healthcare system.
• The Breast Center is located at TMC Women’s Health Building, 2100 N. Rosemont, Suite 100.
• Free mammograms are available at Tucson Medical Center for uninsured women age 40 and over.
• Appointments can be made through TMC Central Scheduling, 520 324 2075.
• For more info on breast health and where Komen SAZ’s money goes, visit www.komensaz.org