News | Community

FOCUS ON…Breast Health with Lisa Beatrice Jones, SHARE Cancer Support Ambassador

October 13, 2021
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I am a breast cancer survivor. Because of my family’s history with cancer, I advocate for women (and men) to educate themselves and take responsibility for their own breast health.

One in eight women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. This year, more than 43,000 women in the US will die from breast cancer. However, while White women have a slightly higher of breast cancer, Black women are 40% percent more likely to die from it. Moreover, for Black women diagnosed with breast cancer, it is often at a later stage and/or with an aggressive form of breast cancer called Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC).

My own mother died at the age of forty-six from breast cancer. I was 10 years old. Sadly, I lost my father at the age of sixty-one due to lung cancer when I was 23. Both my maternal and fraternal grandparents died prior to my birth, at least two of them due to cancer. With such a family history of cancer, I decided to have genetic testing (BRCA test) when I was 36 to discover my odds of developing cancer or other diseases. I tested positive for BRCA-2 gene. The test gave me an 87-95% percent chance of developing breast cancer between the ages of 51 and 75. And right on time at the age of 51, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. But that was five years ago, and today (thankfully) I am cancer free.

What’s key is having the consciousness to make sure you get regular screenings. Unfortunately, Black, and Hispanic women often delay screenings, or don’t make it a priority the way White women do. It may be a lack of access, or funds, or insurance. It may be that culturally, our priorities are more focused on other people and our families.

But we need to make health screening a priority. Regular doctor visits, mammograms, and especially self-examinations are the way to avert problems early.

Charles Shorter, the executive director of Ryan Health | Adair and Ryan Health | Frederick Douglass in Harlem, has made breast cancer awareness a priority. Both centers promote and regularly host a mobile mammography unit (aka the “ScanVan”) in collaboration with Project Renewal. No insurance is necessary to receive services and the staff on in the “Scan Van” will help you make an appointment if they cannot accommodate you as a walk-in.

I often sit in the “Scan Van,” listening to others and sharing my story of survivorship.

It can be scary just waiting to get a mammogram and then to wait for the results.

My goal is to support, encouragement and supply resources for more information about women’s cancers.

The cooperation between Ryan Health | Adair and Ryan Health | Frederick Douglas and the Project Renewal — ScanVan and SHARE has been great. And together, it is a core part of the outreach philosophy of SHARE Cancer Support. We know we need to reach people where they are. We are a part of the communities we serve. We will go to churches, hair salons, schools — anywhere! We know there are never enough resources, but the reality is that women need to be encouraged to put their health care needs first.

Also, knowing your family’s medical history is important. The risk of breast cancer nearly doubles if a woman’s first-degree relative, like a mother, sister, or daughter, has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Still, about 85 percent of breast cancers occur in women with no family history. And getting older does not necessarily reduce the risk. There are increasing numbers of older women getting breast cancer. We all expect to have some illness as you age, such as arthritis or eye issues, but not necessarily breast cancer. Still, treatment protocols are so much better now, and a breast cancer diagnosis is not necessarily a death sentence.

As a survivor, my message is to be vigilant in scheduling your medical appointments and screenings however you can do it. Look for community allies, like Ryan Health, to point you to resources. My organization, SHARE Cancer Services, is a wonderful place to start to learn about all types of cancer affecting women, and steps you should take if you need help.

Breast cancer is much more than wearing a pink ribbon in October. By working together, we can fight it for ourselves, our communities and loved ones.

Ryan Health is conducting the following mammogram screenings:

Ryan Health | Women & Children’s and West 97th Street (801 Amsterdam Avenue)

  • Thursday, October 21: 9:00 AM to 5:00
  • Wednesday, November 3: 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM
  • Thursday, November 18: 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM
  • Thursday, December 16. 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM

Ryan Health | Adair and Frederick Douglass (565 Manhattan Avenue)

  • Thursday October 28: 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM
  • Thursday December 2: 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM

Ryan Health | NENA (279 East 3rd Street)

  • Thursday, December 9: 9:00AM to 4:00 PM

Ryan Chelsea-Clinton (645 10th Avenue)

  • Wednesday, October 20: 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM

Lisa Beatrice Jones is a community relations consultant and a frequent guest lecturer on community health and disparity. She developed a program entitled Recipe for Prevention that targets both the prevention and the aftercare of various illnesses including diabetes, health disease and cancer. She is also a Community Ambassador with SHARE Cancer Support.