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Impact: Mobile mammography during COVID-19

September 1, 2020

When the coronavirus pandemic reached the U.S., many aspects of life were put on pause—including tens of thousands of routine cancer screenings. Experts are now anticipating these postponed and cancelled screenings will lead to an excess of cancer diagnoses and deaths that could have been prevented.

It’s as simple as this: Early detection saves lives. Routine cancer screening can detect cancer early (even if there are no signs or symptoms) and increases the likelihood that treatment will be successful.

Project Renewal ScanVanAs restrictions lift, we are encouraging everyone to get lifesaving screenings Back on the Books, including routine mammograms. To get more people screened, the Prevent Cancer Foundation committed $25,000 to Project Renewal, a community partner operating “the ScanVan,” the only mobile mammography clinic currently seeing patients in New York City.

Now, everyone on the ScanVan is required to wear a mask and only one patient at a time is allowed inside.

“Only having one patient on board with our staff is important because as she goes through the van, we can disinfect and clean behind her so that we can welcome the next patient on board,” said Mary Solomon, Director, Project Renewal ScanVan in a recent PIX11 interview.

Our community partners are our “boots on the ground” allies. They rely on support from organizations like the Foundation to keep their vital health care programs running safely and effectively, even during a pandemic.

This year, more than 268,600 women and 2,600 men in the U.S. will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer (cancer that has spread from where it started in the breast into the surrounding healthy tissue), and more than 42,260 will die from the disease. If diagnosed early and treated before it spreads, the five-year survival rate for breast cancer is 99%.

The need for accessible breast cancer screening in New York City is immense. From 2012–2016, the city had an average of 5,975 female breast cancer cases annually —the highest annual average of any cancer analyzed by the New York State Department of Health (DOH) during this period. According to DOH, for every 100,000 women in New York City there were 19.9 breast cancer deaths—the second highest death rate of all cancers analyzed for either men or women.

Routine mammograms are one of the safest, most reliable ways to detect and address breast cancer early, significantly lowering mortality rates. Per a recent study, routine mammogram screenings for women ages 40–84 prevented up to 483,000 deaths from breast cancer from 1990-2015.

Nevertheless, without convenient and low- or no-cost screening options, low-income women are significantly less likely to access services to detect cancer early. In 2019, 43% of ScanVan patients were uninsured, 23% had Medicaid, 15% had Medicare and 18% had other insurance.

A recent study found “significant differences” between patients visiting a more traditional cancer center and those who were examined through mobile mammography. Specifically, there were significantly more uninsured, African American and Latina patients served by mobile mammography as compared to a traditional cancer center—suggesting mobile mammography  plays a vital role in addressing health care disparities currently facing these populations.

Cancer doesn’t quarantine, so we need to support these critical screening services to save lives. Project Renewal will screen hundreds of homeless or uninsured New Yorkers, giving them the opportunity to take charge of their health and catch cancer early.

To learn more about Project Renewal and our other 2020 community grantees, visit our community grants page.

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