p>NEW HYDE PARK, NY -- For some women, the prospect of breast cancer screening or treatment elicits feelings of fear, anxiety and trepidation. But for many women residing in Southeast Queens and Jamaica, emotional distress is often not the only barrier to prevention and care. Poverty, joblessness, lack of insurance, language barriers, and inadequate transportation or child care all pose obstacles to early detection and treatment..
The resulting health disparities are particularly pronounced among African American women, who face higher breast cancer mortality rates and, consequently, are diagnosed at later stages. Similarly, Hispanic, Asian, undocumented, uninsured and young women also have considerably lower screening rates than the general population.
Vanessa Stephens, a resident of Jamaica Queens, recently found herself facing many of those obstacles. She last had a mammogram five years ago. “I let my health sit on the wayside, hoping and praying that nothing would happen,” she said. Though she knows the importance early detection plays in uncovering any health concerns, working as a security guard did not afford her the means to buy into her company’s medical insurance. Thanks to a friend who noticed a flyer in their local library, Ms. Stephens learned that she could receive a free, state-of-the-art 3D mammograms breast cancer screening at LIJ Medical Center in New Hyde Park, NY.
In addition, LIJ Medical Center’s Ambulatory Care Unit clinicians also offer free pelvic exams, pap smears and colon cancer screenings, ensuring a seamless connection to other preventive and diagnostic services.
Community outreach for the program is funded through a grant from the Greater New York City Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure®. To reach the target community of predominantly uninsured women, Ann Stephens, Outreach Coordinator at LIJ, plays an active role within the neighborhood. With support from the Komen Greater NYC grant, she distributes information and holds meetings at local churches, libraries, nail salons, and other venues and works within the community to raise awareness of this free health service. “There are challenges beyond education,” stresses Ann. “Setting up an appointment and getting them in the door is the real measure of success.”
Asked about her experience, Vanessa Stephens said, “The staff was helpful and willing to work around my work schedule.” She utilized the program’s Saturday’s hours, which are offered once a month. Jill Maura Rabin, MD, the hospital’s chief of ambulatory care and head of urogynecology, says, “The need is there for Saturday hours, as we often see upwards of 20 patients in that one day. Many of these women have family histories but can’t afford to seek medical care due to a lack of insurance and fear. That’s why this program serves such an important function.” Vanessa echoed that sentiment saying, “This is an awesome thing. Everyone made me feel confident about going and I knew I would be in good hands.”
The Komen Greater NYC grant also ensures that all incoming patients are guided through the screening process by patient navigator Maritza Rodriguez. “We work to identify and remove barriers, including providing transportation and child care,” she said. “Once we get them through the door, I work with each woman throughout the entire screening process and assess what other services they may need.” In Ms. Stephens’ case, she required a second screening to rule out a questionable mass, which fortunately proved negative.
Within the first month of the program, LIJ Medical Center detected five cancer cases. “Early detection is one of the most effective ways to stay healthy,” says Kaitlin Doyle, MSPH, women’s health coordinator at LIJ. A life-saving tip that Ms. Stephens is now actively sharing with all her friends.
About North Shore-LIJ Health System Foundation
The North Shore-LIJ Health System Foundation’s mission is to serve the best interest of the community at-large and the Health System by providing the inspiration, opportunity and meaningful direction for donors, patients and leaders to link their vision, dreams and philanthropic support with our most worthy causes from the underserved and uninsured to the latest frontiers in medical technology and research.
For more information, visit support.northshorelij.com.