|Women in Bridgeport and the surrounding communities will have increased access to breast health services from The Norma F. Pfriem Breast Care Center, thanks to a $49,000 grant from the Aetna Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Aetna.|
The money will expand the Breast Care Center’s outreach and screening program, Mujer a Mujer/Woman to Woman, in greater Bridgeport, a community with high rates of breast cancer, late-stage diagnosis and mortality.
“Despite many efforts, too many women, particularly in Bridgeport’s African-American and Hispanic neighborhoods, are still going without check-ups and mammograms. Women are being diagnosed with late-stages of the disease and dying from it at rates that are among the highest in Connecticut,” said Sharon Dalton, vice president of the Aetna Foundation and director of regional grant making. “Our goal at the Aetna Foundation is to promote health and wellness, particularly in underserved communities where access to health care may be limited.”
To advise women in a culturally sensitive way, Mujer a Mujer/Woman to Woman enlists bilingual breast cancer survivors to talk about the importance of early detection and encourage women to take advantage of free breast health care services. The program guides women through the health care system, from screening to diagnosis and treatment. Peer counselors help women understand their treatment options, keep appointments, and cope with the financial and emotional fallout if diagnosed with breast cancer.
Since many low-income women do not see a doctor regularly, Mujer a Mujer/Woman to Woman reaches out to them in places outside the health care system, such as community agencies, schools, food pantries, and other family-related locations.
“We want women to feel safe opening up about a personal issue and navigating the complexities of the health care system,” said Donna Twist, PhD, the Breast Care Center’s executive director and vice president for development. “Women have a chance to speak with someone in their own language who’s been through the breast cancer journey. Patient navigators help them access all aspects of care, including assistance for non-medical issues that can prevent a woman from getting the help she needs. The Aetna Foundation’s support means we can continue to reach women who are unaware of their risk for breast cancer and save lives.”
Breast cancer is a disease that when caught early can be treated and often cured. Early detection is the key to avoiding a late-stage diagnosis. This is crucial for women of color. Death rates from breast cancer are higher for African-American women despite lower incidence rates than white women. Breast cancer is also the most common cancer afflicting Latinas in the U.S., and the five-year survivorship rate for Latinas is lower than for non-Latina whites. A woman’s chance of surviving breast cancer is five times higher when her cancer is identified at an early stage rather than a late one.
The Mujer a Mujer/Woman to Woman outreach program began in 2009. The program expects to reach 3,000 women in the Bridgeport area in 2013.
About the Aetna Foundation: The Aetna Foundation, Inc. is the independent charitable and philanthropic arm of Aetna Inc. Since 1980, Aetna and the Aetna Foundation have contributed $413 million in grants and sponsorships, including $19.2 million in 2011. As a national health foundation, we promote wellness, health, and access to high-quality health care for everyone. This work is enhanced by the time and commitment of Aetna employees, who have volunteered more than 2.6 million hours since 2003. Aetna’s current giving is focused on addressing the rising rate of adult and childhood obesity in the U.S.; promoting racial and ethnic equity in health and health care; and advancing integrated health care. For more information, visit www.AetnaFoundation.org.
About The Norma F. Pfriem Breast Care Center: Part of Bridgeport Hospital and Yale New Haven Health System, The Norma F. Pfriem Breast Care Center has served more than 20,000 women and their families since it was established in 1999. One of only 200 sites accredited by the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers (NAPBC), the Center provides a wide range of diagnostic care and treatment at its Bridgeport Hospital and Fairfield locations, including medical oncology, surgical and chemotherapy services, plastic surgery, mammography and radiation therapy, and genetic risk assessment as well as opportunities to participate in clinical trials. Visit the Center at www.bridgeporthospital.org/cancer/breast.