Early detection, improved access to care goal for breast cancer advocates

Anne H. Meyn

Anne H. Meyn

“We know that people die of breast cancer for two reasons: a lack of high quality breast cancer care accessible to everyone and a lack of treatments for the most aggressive and deadly forms,” said Dr. Judith A. Salermo, president and CEO of Susan G. Komen.

Salermo also said in a prepared statement last month that a private foundation is donating $27 million for a program to significantly reduce what she called, “the appalling difference in death rates between African-American women and white women.

“In the U.S., African-American women are nearly 40 percent more likely to die of breast cancer than white women,” she said.

Houston is one of the 10 target “high priority” cities that the Susan G. Komen’s African-American Health Equity Initiative will target next year, where mortality rates and late stage diagnosis are highest, said Salermo.

While early detection is key, there have been major strides in research and the ways cancer is treated, explained Kimberly A. Sabelko, the senior director of scientific strategy and programs Susan G. Komen.

Before, a breast cancer diagnosis meant a radical mastectomy where the breasts, chest muscles and lymph nodes are surgically removed. Now there are more options including a lumpectomy, targeting the tumors, she said.

Before, chemotherapy was the only option, now there are targeted drugs.

Research has now shown that breast cancer isn’t just one disease, it’s many different diseases so now they look at what’s biologically driving the growth of tumors.

The consistent research changes how to fight cancer using multiple targeted therapies, said Sabelko.

The Houston group just held its annual Race for the Cure and 75 percent of that money stays in Houston going toward grants. Meyn said the other 25 percent goes to national, “but we get a good bang for our buck with the Texas Medical Center here. We have national grantees working here.

“We also serve the underserved, the uninsured and underinsured, not just in Harris County,” said Meyn.

One of their grantees is the American Cancer Society, which funds transportation for women getting treatment. They also fund mobile mammograms and patient navigators who walk with the cancer patient through the process.

Last year’s race was cancelled due to flooding and they raised $1.7 million in grants.

“It was not the highest year in funding and we hope this coming year will be even higher,” Meyn said, adding there have been “quantum leaps” in research. “But they are also realizing the more they learn, the more they know they need to learn,” she said.

To learn more, visit www.komen-houston.org.

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