Mayor Willie L. Brown, Jr.

Mayor' s Breast Cancer Summit Creates Awareness and Support for City's Efforts

The San Francisco Bay Area had the highest reported rate of breast cancer in the world for the years between 1947 and 1992. This year alone more than 4,000 Bay Area women will be diagnosed with the disease.

During the fall of 1996, Mayor Willie Brown convened a Breast Cancer Summit to review all aspects of this critical health issue. This summit was held in direct response to a group of women who met with the mayor during his campaign regarding their concerns about the unusually high incidence of breast cancer in their predominately African American neighborhood.

The general goals of the summit were to raise awareness of San Francisco. s reported rates of breast cancer. Specific objectives were: (1) to focus more resources on the problem; and (2) to identify areas for further research and coordination.

To this end, 420 persons from all sectors of the Bay Area attended the event to hear a panel of experts present their perspectives. Those in attendance included representatives of: state and local political bodies; public health authorities; health care providers and institutions; scientific institutions; private industry; community-based women. s health organizations; breast cancer patient advocacy groups; environmental groups; philanthropic organizations; and the community at large. The session was broadcast via cable to the general public. Private companies supported the costs of holding the summit.

Throughout the day, the panel of experts covered issues that ranged from epidemiology to complementary therapies. Treatment risks were discussed, as were the philosophical aspects of living with cancer. A round table discussion addressed access to screening and health care in various neighborhoods throughout the city.

Summit Outcome

The outcome of the summit was twofold. First, the event established an ongoing relationship with the breast cancer community and the Mayor that has resulted in strong liaisons and in-depth planning for response to need. Second, the San Francisco Department of Public Health now has four women. s care navigators to assist low-income patients in the follow-up of abnormal results and with getting into treatment if needed.

Contact for Breast Cancer Summit: Rebecca Prozan, Special Assistant to the Mayor, 415/554-6148.

Related City Breast Cancer Services

Breast and Cervical Cancer Services (BCCS) within the San Francisco Department of Public Health include the four women. s care navigators, described above, plus a nurse practitioner who provides in-patient screening at San Francisco General Hospital Medical Center. Supported by general funds from the city, this effort focuses upon underserved and at-risk populations of women and assists with coordination of services, screening, education, and patient follow-up. The underserved are: (1) all women and girls, twelve years and older, who have not received appropriate breast and cervical cancer screening and/or services within the past three years; and (2) women who have been screened and have lapsed diagnostic and/or treatment follow-up. At-risk populations include:

  • women who are fifty years and older;
  • lower-income women;
  • recent immigrants;
  • homeless women;
  • incarcerated women;
  • lesbians;
  • women in treatment programs
    (substance abuse/mental health);
  • women with sexually transmitted infections and/or HIV.

The city-funded BCCS augments existing breast and cervical cancer programs, which include the Breast and Cervical Cancer Control Program (BCCCP) that is now in its seventh year of operation in San Francisco. Funds for this effort come from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention through the California Department of Health Services. Women in California are eligible for BCCCP services if they are at 200 percent of the federal poverty level or below, have no other insurance coverage, and meet age criteria for a particular service. The focus is upon women over fifty. BCCCP and BCCS also collaborate with the State of California. s Breast Cancer Early Detection Program for public education/outreach.

Contact for BCCS and/or the BCCCP: Diane C. Carr, RN, BSN, NP, Program Director, Breast and Cervical Cancer Services, San Francisco Department of Public Health, 415/554-2878.

Related Research

Because the Bay Area is a center of high breast cancer incidence, activism, and research, with great geographic, ethnic and economic diversity, it provides a unique "laboratory" in which to study the disease. Research findings could be applicable to other communities in the country. Accordingly, in the fall of 1995 The Breast Cancer Fund, a national nonprofit organization based in San Francisco, initiated a multi-year, multi-disciplinary research project known as the Bay Area Breast Cancer Study Group. The mission of this research project is to undertake an innovative and collaborative investigation into the disease.

Contact for Bay Area Breast Cancer Study Group: Joan Reiss, Project Coordinator, Bay Area Breast Cancer Study Group, The Breast Cancer Fund, 415/543-2979.

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