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Detection. Care. Cure.

Detection. Care. Cure.

Without access to basic health care, breast cancer patients from vulnerable groups face uphill battles.

“Think pink.” During October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we see that phrase everywhere. But what does it really mean? Should we donate more or do walks to help fund research to find a cure? Or is it about building “awareness,” which means every person should not just remember and honor those who have battled the disease, but commit to evaluating their own health to make sure a potentially treatable condition isn’t allowed to progress simply because it was not detected early enough?

It’s all of those things and more.  But for women from low-income and vulnerable populations, breast cancer awareness, and access to basic health care, can be life-threatening obstacles.    

“Breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in women, and the second leading cause of cancer death in females,” says Diane Masseth-Jones, executive director, YWCA of North Orange County. “Early detection of breast cancers with mammography has the potential to dramatically reduce mortality rates. Thus, there is an obvious need for clear, accurate information about breast cancer screening to be disseminated to women, and at-risk women especially.”

Education, detection and treatment are the variables that can lead to less severe (and expensive) courses of treatment, and fewer deaths overall. But when you don’t have access to basic health care, how do you receive proper screening? Fortunately, several Orange County nonprofits fill needs ranging from early screening to helping those battling the disease with direct assistance and financial resources.   

Costa Mesa-based Susan G. Komen Orange County serves as a hub to connect those in need to the organizations that can best provide help, such as YWCA of Northern Orange County in Fullerton and Santa Ana-based Breast Cancer Solutions.

The American Cancer Society’s California Cancer Facts and Figures 2013 reports that Orange County ranks in the top third in the state for incidence of breast cancer and for women who are in late-stage breast cancer.

“KomenOC identified North Orange County as having the highest late-stage cancer diagnosis in the county when compared to South Orange County and coastal cities,” says Masseth-Jones. “North Orange County has a higher population of multicultural, low-income women who face many obstacles to care. But the YWCA of North Orange County has made tremendous strides to overcoming these barriers.”

“We have the largest multiethnic, mobile, neighborhood early breast cancer screening program in Orange County,” she adds.  “This past year, we’ve screened over 5,200 women who would otherwise not have had that opportunity.”

And after diagnosis, the fight begins.  That’s where Breast Cancer Solutions comes in.  Breast Cancer Solutions focuses on helping women facing diagnosis and treatment by providing access to financial and practical assistance.

“The mission of Breast Cancer Solutions is to provide breast cancer patients with direct assistance, community referrals and compassionate support,” says Jennifer Anderson, executive director. “Our primary goal is to eliminate barriers that prevent patients from accessing and completing breast cancer treatment.”

To learn more about organizations who are working to support women in the awareness, early detection and survival of breast cancer and how you can help, visit Nonprofit Central at www.ocnonprofitcentral.org.

Shelley Hoss is president of the Orange County Community Foundation. She can be reached at [email protected]

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