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D.C. organization offers life-saving breast cancer screenings

Breast cancer screening clinic (WJLA file photo)

WASHINGTON (WJLA) - On Saturday, thousands of breast cancer survivors and their supporters will rally on the National Mall for the Susan G. Komen Race For The Cure. ABC7 is proud to again sponsor the event.

The mission is critical, because – according to the CDC – the District has the highest breast cancer incidence and mortality rates in the country.

Moreover, statistics show local breast cancer mortality rates are highest in D.C.'s Wards 7 and 8, where healthcare options are limited.

One D.C. organization is fighting to change that.

Dr. Regina Hampton co-founded Breast Care for Washington and serves as its medical director. The non-profit offers free or reduced price screenings, with D.C.'S first 3-D mammography services east of the Anacostia River.

“For a reason that we're not sure of, African American women get breast cancer at younger ages and it tends to be more aggressive,” Hampton said. “And the 3-D [mammography] image is better at looking at dense breast tissue which is usually seen in younger women.”

The clinic is located in the heart of Ward 8 at the Conway Health Center, operated by Community Of Hope. Just off South Capitol Street, the location was selected due to its proximity to two nearby Metrorail stations as well as two bus stops.

Clinic officials said they wanted the best location for the women in the community, especially those who work low or minimum wage jobs while also supporting their children and/or grandchildren.

Patient Ebunoluwa Ola came to the clinic because she had no health insurance. “I took three buses and one train to come here to do this – to do something to save my life. I think it's worth it,” Ola said.

Brenda Young came because she was underinsured after losing her job. When she sought a mammogram at the doctor’s office she normally visits, she said her temporary insurance plan was rejected.

Young said, having lost her close friend Denise to breast cancer eight years ago, that only motivated her more to get a mammogram. Young said she would not take no for an answer. She later discovered BCW and its free screenings.

When asked what her friend would think of her efforts to get checked, Young choked up. “She would be delighted,” she said.

Screenings for both women came back normal. But after screening more than 800 other patients in the past year, Breast Care for Washington has diagnosed five patients with cancer.

Two-time breast cancer survivor Debi Hardy serves as the clinic manager. She’s also a voice of comfort and reason to the many women who visit.

Scheduling patients by phone, she emphasizes the importance of these health screenings. She re-schedules those who miss appointments due to work or family obligations or because they have trepidations about getting a mammogram or learning their results.

Hardy said she tells nervous patients, “Knowledge is power. So if you have the knowledge, then you can know the next step. You don't need to necessarily deal with steps 5 through 7 before you walk 1 through 2.”

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