Breast cancer awareness goes behind bars

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Typically armed with minimal information about breast cancer, hundreds of female inmates were recently educated about self-breast examinations, early detection and treatment of the disease during the 2nd Annual Pin-A-Sister breast cancer awareness event a

Typically armed with minimal information about breast cancer, hundreds of female inmates were recently educated about self-breast examinations, early detection and treatment of the disease during the 2nd Annual Pin-A-Sister breast cancer awareness event at the Cook County Jail.

The program targets uninsured and low-income women who lack adequate access to testing and treatment of the disease, said Donna Thompson, chief executive officer of ACCESS Community Health Care.

The women – approximately 500 – pinned each other with pink ribbon stickers during the ceremony in which they pledged to take better care of themselves by getting annual mammograms, and by spreading the knowledge to others.

Broadcast television legend Merri Dee, Pam Morris of WVON-AM/1690, state Sen. Mattie Hunter, D-3rd, state Rep. Karen Yarbrough, D-7th, Ald. Toni Foulkes (15th), Mildren Harris of God First Ministries and Darlene Garcia of Christian Fellowship Flock Church were on hand for the pinning ceremony.

“African American’s and Latinas die from breast cancer at a rate of 2-and-a-half times greater than Caucasian women. It is critical that all women make a commitment to get tested regularly. Our lives are too precious to treat casually. Early detection is crucial in the fight against breast cancer,” Thompson said.

Many female inmates at the jail only get health care during their periods of incarceration, according to the Cook County sheriff’s office.

While white women have the highest overall rate of breast cancer, African American women are more likely to die from it. The national death rate in 2007 for African American women with breast cancer was about 34.4 deaths per 100,000 women compared to 25.4 deaths per 100,000 for white women, according to Network of Strength organization, formerly the Y-ME National Breast Cancer Organization.

On Mother’s Day, the campaign held its Pin-A-Sister Sunday program in more than 300 places of worship across the state, reaching more than 500,000 women.

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