William E. Ward

Combining Public and Private Resources for Screening and Treatment of the Underserved

With the strong endorsement of Mayor Ward, in l995 the City of Chesapeake Health Department conducted a needs assessment to determine the status of breast and cervical cancer among the women in Chesapeake. The findings for older African American females were alarming. This group had three times the mortality rate for breast cancer than reported in state statistics for all African American women, as well as three times the mortality rate of Caucasian women. Other findings that related to the special needs of women follow.

  • Breast cancers in Black women were detected at a later stage and were .more aggressive, leading to higher .mortality rates.

  • Screening services for uninsured and/.or low-income women were insufficient.

  • Awareness and educational programs were very limited.

  • Black women developed the disease at .a younger age than White women did.

  • Breast cancer was the leading cause of cancer death among African American women between the ages of 30 and 54.

  • Barriers to getting early detection screenings included cost, fear of discomfort, lack of transportation, and especially lack of awareness of services.

Coming Up with a Plan of Action

A two-part plan was developed to: (1) promote public awareness and educational programs; and (2) provide access to breast and cervical cancer screenings for medically underserved women. This category includes women who are older, have lower incomes, and are members of minority populations. The Chesapeake Health Department and Chesapeake General Hospital implemented the plan with a grant from the Virginia State Health Department. This state agency administers funds from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) .for the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program, an initiative known in Virginia as the "Every Woman’s Life" Program. These CDC funds allowed for free cancer screenings of almost 200 Chesapeake women who met state .eligibility guidelines.

Reaching Minority Women

Outreach programs targeting area churches, senior clubs and organizations were offered to increase breast cancer awareness. Over 2,000 fans with printed information about free screenings were distributed to women in 24 area churches. Area buses continue .to have advertisements promoting the free mammography program.

An area-wide organization was formed called the "Minority Health Coalition." Members of this group had been attending coalition-building seminars in order to develop health programs for early detection of diseases such as breast cancer, which they chose as one of their core projects.

Results, Follow-Up, and Treatment

Breast examinations, pelvic and Pap exams, and case management are offered through the Chesapeake Health Department. Chesapeake General Hospital performs screening and diagnostic mammography and also does ultrasounds, aspiration, and fine-needle biopsies. After completing 192 screenings this past year, eight biopsies were performed and four women were found to have breast cancer. Since fourteen area surgeons and oncologists had agreed to offer their services pro bono for any women diagnosed through the "Every Woman’s Life" Program, surgery was readily available for these women. The hospital covered all hospitalization costs including radiology and chemotherapy services. All four patients are doing well.

Future Plans

The goal this next year is to offer over .200 more screenings with follow-up .and treatment services for diagnosed women. Through the "Every Woman’s Life" Program, public and private .partners can continue to collaborate .on prevention, early detection, and treatment efforts as well as education and awareness – and Chesapeake women can look forward to longer .lives and brighter futures.

For more information, please contact:

Rhoda Stillman
Case Manager and Breast
Cancer Coordinator
Chesapeake Health Department
telephone: 757/382-8710