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Grant Funds Breast Cancer Screenings of Women in At-Risk Communities

The burden of cancer is dramatically high in the African American community, with the mortality rate 41% higher for Black women than white. In St. Louis, The Breast Health Care for At-Risk Communities program is among initiatives aimed at reducing that shocking disparity.

The program, based out of The Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine, provides breast health services including screening mammograms, diagnostic services, and navigation assistance to a diverse population of low-income and medically underserved women in the St. Louis region. In 2020, about 1,800 women in the Breast Health Care for At-Risk Communities program were screened and counseled by the staff of Siteman’s Joanne Knight Breast Health Center.

Thanks to generous donors, The Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital is a proud supporter of the program through a grant of $206,604.45 for 2022. The funds are being used to provide patient care services including screening mammograms, diagnostic mammograms, ultrasounds, biopsies and consultations with specialists.

Melody Schaeffer, community health manager at Siteman, said the timing was extremely important because the program is no longer receiving awards from Susan G. Komen, which had historically provided funding.

“The funding from the Foundation is critical for our program to continue to serve patients living here in St. Louis,” she says. “We use this support to really address health equity and identify patients who otherwise may not get a mammogram. We know early detection saves lives, so this funding directly benefits patients who are low-income, uninsured, or underinsured. We want to catch those cancers in their earliest stages and ensure the best possible outcomes for more people.”

The program’s services include a mammography van, whose staff works with health centers, churches, and other partners to offer screenings across the region. The medical personnel aboard the van provide mammography services to women who are unable to travel to a Siteman facility.

The program’s team also includes patient navigators who help minimize confusion by explaining medical terminology, insurance coverage or lack of coverage, financial assistance options, and transportation possibilities to ensure that every eligible woman receives high-quality care.

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