ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure® has awarded more than $411,000 in grants to Saint Louis University Cancer Center to provide emergency economic aid to women who have breast cancer and to enhance breast cancer detection.
Bridging the Gap
The grant supports emergency financial assistance to economically stressed women who are undergoing treatment for breast cancer. The stop-gap emergency funding is designed to allow women to continue breast cancer therapy.
The program includes women in all areas served by the St. Louis Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Women are referred by a social worker or other health care professional and are eligible for up to $800 in financial aid. Social workers also help in identifying community resources to address problems long term.
Last year, the program assisted more than 250 women.
"We don't want women to choose between repairing a car that they rely upon for transportation to chemotherapy or paying the electric bill," said Rebecca Dougherty, Saint Louis University Cancer Center social worker. "Through this program, we can assist women who have immediate and pressing financial needs so they can continue their treatment."
The assistance is not designed to be regular income. Rather, it is an emergency, one-time payment for expenses such as childcare, transportation, rent, mortgage, utility bills and co-payments for doctor's visits or chemotherapy.
The "Reaching In" grant funds a nurse navigator who helps women with little or no health insurance receive mammograms and follow up breast health care. The program is for women between ages 40 and 64 who already are seeing a SLUCare physician; their families; and other women in need with connections to SLU.
The nurse navigator serves as the point person for women -- simplifying breast care by coordinating mammograms and follow up breast cancer tests, if necessary, to occur during the same day and otherwise helping women to maneuver through the complex health care system.
"The goal of the nurse navigator program is to provide access to free mammograms for uninsured or underinsured women who might otherwise delay seeking breast cancer screening services because they lack access to health care services," said Amy Parker, SLU nurse navigator for the program.
"We also work to minimize other burdens that might keep women from getting their mammograms, including helping with transportation and translator services. Outreach is a very important aspect of this program as well, in order to connect the women in the community who need services that are offered by SLU."
Heredity Risk Assessment
Funded for a decade, the heredity risk assessment program was founded by Suzanne Mahon, DNSc., a Saint Louis University Cancer Center faculty member who is a nationally recognized expert in early cancer assessment and detection. The program currently serves nearly 150 established families and is anticipated to expand to serve an additional 100 families this year.
"Genetic counseling and testing can clarify your risk of cancer. If you under-estimate your risk, you might not have the information you need to make good decisions about prevention and early detection. If we prove you don't have the risk, that can be a big relief," Mahon said.
"Hereditary risk assessment improves the quality of life for people if the tests are done correctly and people get the right follow up and guidance for what to do. You not only save lives, you make the quality of lives better."
The grant enables Mahon to provide all education and counseling services without charge to entire families, not only to the person who comes in an initial risk assessment. If Mahon discovers a genetic mutation for hereditary cancer in one family member, she offers testing to other family members who may be at risk and recommends cancer prevention and early detection based on test results.
Women who typically are at genetic risk for breast cancer have a close relative who developed the disease when she was young, often before age 50. Women also should consider having a genetic risk assessment if they have family members from multiple generations -- grandmother, mother, aunt, sister and daughter - who have breast and/or ovarian cancer.
The Saint Louis University Cancer Center combines compassionate and individualized care with the latest advances in research, prevention and education. For information, call (314) 268-7015, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Susan G. Komen for the Cure® is the world's largest breast cancer organization, and the St. Louis Affiliate is one of 125 Affiliates on the front lines dedicated to ending breast cancer in their communities. Komen Affiliates fund innovative programs that help women and men overcome the cultural, social, educational and financial barriers to breast cancer screening and treatment.