Whether you were spending your Valentine’s Day with a Dunkin Donut’s heart-shaped donut or your loved one, doctors at Penn Medicine were already looking beyond the holiday.
On Feb. 15 and 16, the Penn Breast Health Initiative provided free breast cancer diagnostic tests — from screening mammograms, biopsies and ultrasound diagnostic tests — to local women with minimal or without insurance coverage. In many communities, working mothers are more likely to pass up the opportunity to get regular medical checkups, especially mammograms, in favor of the health of children or to work longer hours.
According to Carmen Guerra, an associate professor of medicine at the Perelman School of Medicine and associate chief of staff at the Abramson Cancer Center, “the Penn Breast Health Initiative tries to reach women who traditionally have been more difficult to reach when it comes to medical screening.”
In the past few years, Guerra has fought against adversity to enlarge the scope of the Penn Breast Health Initiative, which was initially unable to serve all women in Philadelphia.
Guerra refused to allow her team to be limited to a meager 75 free mammogram “slots” for a full year. From rather small beginnings, Guerra eventually pursued the Susan G. Komen for the Cure grant, and greatly increased the capacity of the Penn Breast Cancer Health Initiative.
In the past two years, through the recognition of the Breast Cancer Initiative by the American Cancer Society, a collaborative project with Univision began to solidify that eventually led to the development of today’s project, “Amate a ti Misma,” or “Love Yourself.”
By placing Hispanic culture at the forefront of its focus, the Penn Breast Health Initiative reached out through female news anchors on the Univision News Network who informed middle-aged women of the free service through Public Service Announcements. The PSAs, though short, were aired between three and four weeks before the assigned days for the appointments and turned out to be almost as effective as reaching out to the Hispanic community on a personal level.
This year, 16 women came in for an appointment during the two-day event, and nine more signed up for appointments at a later date. For the past two years, the two-day event for free appointments has had a large turnout and showed an indication of a steady future.
Guerra said that she will continually strive to make free breast cancer assessments available to impoverished women.
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