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VOL. 132 | NO. 158 | Thursday, August 10, 2017

Memphis-MidSouth Affiliate of Susan G. Komen Foundation Expanding Reach

By Don Wade

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On Oct. 28, the local affiliate of the Susan G. Komen Foundation will host its 25th annual Race for the Cure to raise funds for awareness and to support the fight breast cancer. (Susan G. Komen Foundation)


In 2017, there will be an estimated 252,710 new cases of invasive breast cancer and 40,610 breast cancer deaths. Those sobering numbers come from the Susan G. Komen Foundation, the largest nonprofit source of breast cancer research.

“The unfortunate reality is it’s still one of the most common forms of cancer,” said Kevin Hammeran, CEO at Baptist Women’s Hospital. “Everybody has a stake in seeing an improvement in the rate of survivorship.”

Since 1993, the Memphis-MidSouth affiliate of the Susan G. Komen Foundation has granted almost $10.5 million locally for screenings and treatment and has directed another $3 million to Komen’s national research program.

Such affiliates are akin to restaurant franchises – operating independently under a national brand. Recently, the Memphis-MidSouth affiliate expanded from 21 to 37 counties across West Tennessee and North Mississippi. The new name: Komen Memphis MidSouth-Mississippi.

Elaine Hare, CEO of the local affiliate, says they absorbed counties including cities such as Oxford, Corinth, Tupelo and Starkville after the Northeast Mississippi affiliate broke away from the national organization.

“Because we’re a major health care center, it was logical for us to say we didn’t want anybody in Mississippi to not get the health care they need,” Hare said. “We knew we needed to expand our services.”

The national foundation was formed in the early 1980s. From 1989 through 2014 (the most recent data available), breast cancer mortality rates declined by 38 percent due to improved treatment and early detection.

This year, Komen provided Baptist with $100,000 toward breast cancer outreach. Since 1987, Baptist has had a pink mobile truck providing mammograms at businesses, schools, malls – wherever women need the service brought to them.

As recently as 2016, Hare says, the breast cancer mortality rate for African-American women in Memphis was the highest in the country. Statistics released this year showed Memphis had dropped to No. 8 in the nation.

The Memphis-MidSouth affiliate of the Susan G. Komen Foundation recently expanded from 21 to 37 counties across West Tennessee and North Mississippi. The new name: Komen Memphis MidSouth-Mississippi. (Susan G. Komen Foundation)



“We’ve been working hard to lower that number and we know the Affordable Care Act helped lower that number,” she said. “The mammogram is the first step. We have higher incident rates and higher mortality rates because we have a higher poverty level.”

Nationally, the District of Columbia had the highest overall mortality rate but Mississippi was tied with Louisiana for the second-highest rate.

Poverty and the lack of a primary care doctor, Hammerman says, are prime reasons breast cancer cases are not diagnosed early. The five-year survival rate for all persons diagnosed with breast cancer in its early stages is 99 percent.

Hare says 80 cents of every dollar they take in goes back to providing health care grants. On Oct. 28, the local affiliate will hold its 25th Race for the Cure. The race will be routed through Downtown and the Big River Crossing bridge will be bathed in pink. Last year, more than 7,000 people registered for the race.

To register, donate or form a team this year, go to www.komenmemphis.org or call 901-757-8686.

Other organizations may also be in the business of raising money for cancer, but Hare says the local Komen affiliate is the only one raising money exclusively for fighting breast cancer and providing screenings in this region.

She says sometimes uninsured people can find help through other means, but underinsured residents likely cannot. For example, Hare says it is typical for health insurance to cover one diagnostic screening per year. But for a person diagnosed with breast cancer, the protocol is to receive two screenings annually for the first five years. A Komen grant can help pay for the second screening.

In another case, a 29-year-old man who lost in his job in another state returned to Memphis complaining of severe breast pain. Through the local Komen affiliate he was able to get a screening which, unfortunately, showed he was in the latter stages of breast cancer.

“Rare,” Hare said of this diagnosis with a young man, “but it does happen.”

The expansion into Mississippi, she says, will allow a sharing of operational expenses while making sure there are no gaps in care for those outside of Memphis. The Race for the Cure is the chief fundraiser to ensure the work continues.

“We don’t raise it,” Hare said, “we can’t grant it.”

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