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Mammography screening program expands outreach

Ellen Abbott
WRVO Media Company


The Upstate Cancer Center, in Syracuse, is expanding its mammography screening program, which focuses on residents who live in public housing.

The program, called She Matters, has spent the last year encouraging women over the age of 40 from Pioneer Homes, a predominately African-American housing complex in downtown Syracuse, to get the breast cancer detecting tests.  Since then, 88 women have received the tests, with one woman being diagnosed.

Part of the reason it works is that residential advocates like Lawrence Diamond-Walls help to dispel fear about the test that’s spread throughout the community.

“The [residents] still may be under the pretense that they’re using the old metal clamping machine. They have to get past that and realize that all of them have to come and get this done,” Diamond-Walls says.

Martha Chavis-Bonner, one of the residential health leaders who has personally invited women to take the test, also finds that many are often just misinformed about it.

“Because there’s a fear that it hurts, that it’s painful,” Chavis-Bonner says.  “And once they get it done they see that it’s not a painful thing to do.   We’re also getting older women who never thought they had to go back and get this done.”

The success at Pioneer Homes and a Susan G. Koman grant have allowed the resident health advocacy program to expand to underserved women in the Almus Olver Towers and Toomey Abbott Towers in Syracuse. 

Men aren’t left out however. Diamond-Walls talks to men about the incidence of breast cancer in males and he says the trust created through this program ultimately spreads the health care message to all.

"We don’t always get a pat on the back.  As long as we are out there putting it out,” Diamond-Walls says.  “Reach one, teach one.”

This kind of initiative is important for the Pioneer Homes community, because the mortality rate for breast cancer is 41 percent higher for African-American women than it is for any other ethnicity. 

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.