The Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute is a unique, urban-based integrated system of research, patient care and education, dedicated to the prevention, early detection, treatment and eventual eradication of cancer. The Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute’s volunteer Breast Health Awareness Speakers present educational programs to community, business, religious and social groups on maintaining good breast health and the risks associated with breast cancer. The main focus of their outreach is to encourage women to be compliant with the designated breast cancer screening guidelines. These guidelines advocate all women to have an annual clinical breast exam performed by a physician or other health care provider, practice monthly breast self-examination, and obtain an annual screening mammogram for those women over forty.
These 2000 figures establish why this group initiated and continues this volunteer activity. It is estimated there will be nationally–182, 800 new cases of breast cancer and 40,800 deaths in Michigan–6, 700 new cases of breast cancer and 1,500 deaths. Research has proven that if women followed the above mentioned breast health practices, the number of yearly deaths could be reduced by 30%. Nationally that could mean a saving of 54,840 lives in Michigan, and this translates into saving approximately 2,011 lives each year.
Many women feel that the saving of even one life would justify this program; as a group their educational efforts save many lives yearly. Recently, there has been a community based research project added for those women attending health education programs. Volunteers, by phone, provide follow-up encouragement to any women reported as non-compliant (if over 40 and not having a mammogram within the last year) six months after each attended a program.
Although some of the volunteers are women who have not experienced breast cancer, the majority of them are breast cancer survivors. These volunteers present a slide show and narrative program every day of the week at numerous times for no charge. The programs are presented with the goal of providing women with the most current information available so that they can make healthy decisions about their personal health practices. During each presentation, the audience is able to ask questions and have them answered. Cancer survivors are utilized as speakers, and this allows each participant to see that a cancer diagnosis does not have to be a death sentence. They show that a rewarding and fulfilling life can be possible following diagnosis and treatment. The speakers address a need and are able to personally encourage best breast health practices and show that those practices can save lives.
In addition, the volunteers collaborate with a number of other community organizations. Many of the speakers have motivated individuals, groups, and companies to participate in the Komen Race for the Cure. Last year, the Michigan race alone raised over $1 million and $700,000 of the proceeds went to local breast caner education, research, and treatment. The Institute’s formal Breast Health Education began with 15 volunteer speakers in 1995. To date, they have presented 124 programs and reached 4,559 people.