Komen Lowcountry promotes breast cancer education year round
Breast cancer awareness fundraiser Susan G. Komen Lowcountry is perhaps best known for their annual Race for the Cure, which was held on Sept. 22 in North Charleston this year after moving off Daniel Island. The total amount raised from the 2018 event is still being counted, as donations are collected through the end of October, but the organization’s website puts the current tally at over $60,268,000 towards its $100,000 goal. Already, they are looking towards the next way to help breast cancer patients and survivors.
“We really focus on the breast cancer disparities,” said Komen Lowcountry Director of Marketing and Communications Lisa Jones. “In Charleston, you’ve got places we could send people, but in some of these outlying counties, they’re just not as fortunate as we are in a larger town.”
According the National Cancer Institute, that disparity is well documented.
“African American women are much more likely than white women to die of breast cancer,” states a 2018 study into cancer disparities. “The mortality gap is widening as the incidence rate in African American women, which in the past had been lower than that in white women, has caught up to that in white women.”
“We have those pockets of people that really need assistance with really just a diagnosis or trying to help people with transportation back and forth,” added Jones.
One of the quickest and most effective ways of addressing the racial gap in cancer survival rates is through education, she said. “Worship in Pink” is an annual program Komen Lowcountry does around Mother’s Day that provides important information to members of local church congregations.
“That is a faith-based program that churches can register with us and we give them a packet full of information for their congregations, breast health information,” said Jones. “Every year we try to do it differently and focus on different areas of breast health.”
Some years have promoted healthy living patterns that can discourage breast cancer from developing and others have focused on male breast cancer.
Throughout the year, Komen Lowcountry has a small grants program that provides child care, co-pay assistance, and transportation to members of underprivileged communities.
“We know we can’t really do everything, although the need is everywhere,” said Susan G. Komen South Carolina’s Director of Mission Lucy Spears. “So the grants are the way we are able to reach the furthest and provide that financial assistance.”
Last May, the organization announced $180,065 in new grants for 2018.
“These awards help meet the most critical needs of the community, including projects that provide free and low-cost breast cancer screening, diagnostic and treatment support services to underinsured and uninsured women and men,” stated a press release. “These vital programs also support Susan G. Komen’s bold goal to reduce current breast cancer deaths by 50 percent in the U.S. by 2026.”
To Spears, aiding rural, minority, and underprivileged communities is a task rooted in education. “There’s so much misinformation. In our rural areas, there’s lack of access,” she said. “So even though Daniel Island seems so close to Charleston or Cainhoy seems close to Charleston for us, the barriers that exist are huge. Someone living in Cainhoy for instance may be struggling with paying bills, and how to get the gas to get to the screening appointment, or can they get the time off work. There are a lot of things that come into play and education is where it has to begin.”
The grants announced in May went to Allendale County Hospital, Beaufort Jasper Hampton Comprehensive Health System Inc., Lexington Medical Center, McLeod Health, and Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System Foundation.
“The greatest challenges lie in rural regions where few, if any, breast cancer services are available. Our grantees are breaking barriers by bringing help to these communities,” added Spears. “Any patient served through one of these grants can be assured of access to treatment should they need it. We’re proud that in the past six years alone, our grants have provided more than 17,825 services for women and men in need.”