An Abramson Cancer Center Penn breast cancer patient was once overheard saying:
There is only one thing worse than having cancer – not being able to afford it.
Financial cost remains a barrier to cancer screenings - and cancer treatment itself - among low-income women. While multiple factors contribute to racial and socioeconomic disparities in breast cancer death rates, a lower utilization of mammograms is consistently one of them.
Compounding the problem is the continuing debate over what age and how often women should get mammograms. The American Cancer Society's recommendations remain at odds with the latest guidelines from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. The Task Force recommends that routine screenings for average-risk women begin at age 50 and continue to be given every two years, instead of yearly mammograms beginning at age 40.
While the debate continues on, one thing remains constant. Mammograms remain the best, "first-line-of-defense" screening test available for the early detection of breast cancer.
In an effort to help women in need and also ultimately save lives, Ari D. Brooks, MD, director of the Integrated Breast Center and Endocrine and Oncologic Surgery at Pennsylvania Hospital, and Carmen Guerra, MD, MSCE, FACP, associate professor of Medicine and associate chief of staff of the Abramson Cancer Center, and president of the East Central Division of the American Cancer Society, teamed up to create a grassroots program, the Penn Medicine Breast Health Initiative (PMBHI).