From awareness to action: Cancer prevention at the YMCA

Published on December 1, 2023

From L to R: Lisa Wolcott, Executive Director, Guilderland YMCA; Cassie Smith, Senior Manager, Congressional Families and Education Campaigns; Debbie Sweet, breast cancer survivor; Heather Mackey, Senior Director, Cancer Prevention and Early Detection; Lisa McGovern, Executive Director, Congressional Families Cancer Prevention Program; Congressman Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.); Diane Tilton, Senior Director, Education Marketing; David Brown, President & CEO, Capital District YMCA

For many people, getting screened for cancer can be so fear-inducing that they simply don’t do it. We confronted the tendency toward avoidance at our “Don’t be Scared to Get Screened” event at the YMCA in Guilderland, New York – one of ten YMCAs in the Capital District. Held on October 30—just before the conclusion of Breast Cancer Awareness Month—the event was part of a collaborative initiative between the Prevent Cancer Foundation’s Congressional Families Cancer Prevention and the Capital District YMCA to bring “Early Detection = Better Outcomes” cancer screening resources to members of the YMCA. We hope this will be the first of many collaborations with YMCAs across the U.S.

Capital District YMCA President and CEO David Brown welcomed attendees, noting his own personal connection to cancer through his mother’s lung cancer diagnosis has made him passionate about this cause. He added that cancer prevention and early detection fall into the “healthy living bucket” activities that the YMCA supports.  

Congressional Families Program Executive Director Lisa McGovern spoke about the valuable role that Senators, Members and congressional spouses can play by highlighting community resources and programs like those at the Y that can help educate the public and inspire action to improve health and thanked Rep. Paul Tonko for joining the event. She then introduced Debbie Sweet, a breast cancer survivor and YMCA member, who shared her powerful story which begins with her sister.  

Debbie’s sister was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer after discovering a lump while on a family vacation. The sisters sprang into action—researching the best treatments and doctors. “I was not only her sister, but her ‘battle buddy,’” Debbie said. As her sister was finishing treatment, Debbie noticed a lump in her own breast. Because of her sister’s successful treatment, she was confident despite her diagnosis. She followed in her sister’s footsteps, though Debbie was able to participate in an immunotherapy clinical trial. Both sisters are now doing well, and Debbie participates in the LIVESTRONG program for cancer survivors at the YMCA. “Educating and getting the resources out there is so important for early detection and for better outcomes,” said Debbie.

Congressman Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.)

Rep. Paul Tonko, who represents New York’s 13th District where the Capital District YMCA is located, concluded the speaking program noting the value of sharing this critical prevention and screening information through community partners like the Y. “Through screening, there can be better treatments and better outcomes,” he noted.

The event concluded with a tour of the Guilderland YMCA, which showcases the Prevent Cancer Foundation’s cancer screening posters and offers handouts to educate members about cancer screenings they need and at what age. These resources can be found at all 10 Capital District YMCA locations as part of the initiative between the organizations.

Explore and download Early Detection = Better Outcomes resources.

No Comments

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

I accept the Privacy Policy

Sign up to get the latest about cancer prevention and early detection directly in your inbox.