For more than a decade, the organization From Our Hearts has provided breast cancer screening and treatments for Pine Island residents, as well as raising awareness for the disease, due to the support received from the community.
Since statistics show that one in eight women are diagnosed with breast cancer, during the month of October, increased awareness is spread about the importance of early detection. According to the National Cancer Institute, approximately 2.6 million women in the United States with a history of breast cancer were alive in January 2008, which accounts for more than half who were diagnosed less than 10 years ago.
From Our Hearts President Karen Washburn said last year they provided 158 mammograms for women, as well as payment for 10 women to have chemotherapy or radiation treatments, or both, between March 2011 and February 2012.
"Ten in a year was the highest we have ever done," she said about those needing chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
The previous year From Our Hearts provided 157 mammograms and three treatments.
"The number of active treatment was definitely higher," Washburn said. "There is really no rhythm or reason why that jumped up."
Last year the Pine Island community provided $73,000 that went toward the women who needed assistance with screenings and treatment.
"I really would like people to appreciate the amount that goes out," she said, which is all made possible by the community. "We have been so fortunate that the Pine Island community truly cares for each other a great example of how the community comes together to take care of its own."
Since the organization is made up of volunteers, all the money raised throughout the year goes directly toward services provided to residents. Washburn said the money raised truly goes back into the community to save lives.
The next fund-raiser, OktoberBreast, will be held Sunday, Oct. 21, from 12-6 p.m. at Miceli's. The event will include live music from Burnt Out, High Tide and Strange Arrangement.
From Our Hearts partners with Partners with Breast Cancer, an organization based out of Fort Myers that covers Lee County.
Washburn said From Our Hearts provides Partners with Breast Cancer with a grant to cover any Pine Island residents that needs its assistance. She said that is the best entry into the program.
The organization also has a grant set up with the Lee Memorial Health System to provide assistance for women who need chemotherapy or radiology treatment.
Individuals can also go through the Beacon of H.O.P.E. to seek assistance from Partners with Breast Cancer.
Washburn said the Beacon of H.O.P.E. will help make the connections needed through Partners with Breast Cancer, along with the assistance in getting the right information faxed to the organization. Washburn said the Beacon of H.O.P.E. is also helpful for those who may have transportation issues.
"It is a first great place to check," she said.
Washburn said those who qualify for screening could also take advantage of the Radiology Regional Center Mobile Mammo Coach that travels around the area. She said it works out well if transportation is an issue for the individual.
"That will eliminate that barrier," Washburn said.
Registration beforehand is required through Partners with Breast Cancer.
"Once they qualify for the grant, Partners will help them select the site for wherever is convenient for them," she said.
The coach will arrive on the island at Stonegate Bank Oct. 12, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., to provide women with the opportunity to have their mammogram done. Mel Meo and the Mullet Wagon will also be at bank Friday.
Stonegate Bank Pine Island Office Vice President Elsie Stearns said Friday marks the beginning of the third year they have teamed up with Radiology Regional to bring the Mobile Mammo Coach to the island. She said there have been well over 200 women that have climbed on the bus during the past three years.
The first October that the Mobile Mammo Coach visited Stonegate Bank, Stearns said they had more than 35 women take advantage of the service.
Every time the coach comes to the island, Stearns said, they provide some type of goody for the women who take advantage of the coach, which this time will include something pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
The appointments typically take about 15 minutes to complete once the patient arrives on the coach. Individuals can call 239-936-2316 to schedule an appointment.
Women should bring the name and address of their primary care physician, medical insurance card and a picture ID to their appointment. If they do not have a primary care physician, staff will help find them one in case the patient needs follow-up care.
Washburn said they want to make sure that anybody who needs screening can have it done. She said too often when finances are tight, having a mammogram done is the first thing that is delayed.
Early detection, Washburn said, is key because when breast cancer is caught early it is a very treatable disease.
"We don't want anybody to go without that just because of cost," she said of having a screening done.