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Partnering to fight breast cancer

January 31, 2013
By MEGHAN McCOY ( , Pine Island Eagle

A collaboration was had at the Beacon of H.O.P.E. Wednesday morning and afternoon as a handful of organizations and health care providers came together to provide an abundance of breast care resources, including the Breast Health Caravan for screenings, as well as educational material for the Pine Island community.

"This is truly a community collaboration focusing on saving lives in Lee County," Partners for Breast Cancer Care Executive Director Janet Darnell said about the Breast Health Caravan Project. "The United Way, From Our Hearts, Senior Friendship Centers, Lee County Volunteers in Medicine, Radiology Regional Center and Susan G. Komen for the Cure SWFL Affiliation have collaborated with Partners for Breast Cancer Care to make this project possible."

A United Way grant that Partners for Breast Cancer recently received provided them with funds to begin the Breast Health Caravan, a mobile mammogram unit that travels to various locations to provide a convenient way to have a screening done. Darnell said since the Beacon is affiliated with the United Way they were able to bring the caravan to the island Jan. 23.

Article Photos

Regional Cancer Center Breast Health Navigator Tammy Zinn, Senior Friendship Centers Health and Wellness Director Julie Ramirez, Partners for Breast Cancer Care Executive Director Janet Darnell, Partners for Breast Cancer Care Senior Case Manager Rosemary Bulit and Beacon of H.O.P.E. Executive Director Betsy Haesemeyer.

The Breast Health Caravan will visit the at-risk neighborhoods in Lee County, which includes Pine Island, North Fort Myers, Dunbar and Lehigh Acres between now and April. Darnell said each location will receive a visit from the caravan twice.

"We are always trying to make sure people don't fall through the cracks," she said.

The Breast Health Caravan Project will return to the island on March 12.

"We would like attendees to make their appointment through our office prior to March 12, so we can have the paperwork in place allowing more people to participate," Darnell said.

To make an appoinrtment, call 239-454-8583.

During the Wednesday event attendees had the opportunity to have a private, no-cost breast examination done by a volunteer physician, meet with a bilingual case manager to see if they qualified for a mammogram, demonstration on self-breast examination, screening mammogram, as well as receiving a hand-out packet.

She said the non-profit organization, which began in 1990, pays for breast health care for low income, uninsured Lee County women and men.

Their mission statement is "to save lives and reduce suffering from breast cancer through improved early detection, education, and access to healthcare."

Wednesday's event included a volunteer physician, breast health navigator, the Radiology Regional Mobile Mammo Coach and a case manager.

Darnell said her Senior Case Manager Rosemary Bulit will follow up with each attendee and if further testing is needed, they will schedule the appointment and cover the cost.

Regional Cancer Center Breast Health Navigator Tammy Zinn had an area set up at the Beacon of H.O.P.E. to provide education about breast cancer, as well as information on how to perform self-breast exams. She said she was also providing information to individuals of what additional resources are available to them.

The Cancer Nurse Navigator program provides many levels of care, which starts when a suspicious finding is discovered or a cancer diagnosis is made.

Zinn said she meets one-on-one with an individual, so she can help them get ready to meet the physicians, receive treatment, as well as dealing with survivorship because one has to have a plan.

The navigator functions as a liaison for an individual to help them receive the care they need during the diagnosis, treatments and other needs that may occur during the process through medical, emotional, educational and financial services.

Zinn said it is about helping a woman take care of her entire self.

"If we helped one person and touched one person, we made a difference," she said.

The program is funded through From Our Hearts, who donates money to them for screening and life saving treatments, as well as grants from the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

Nurse Navigators are currently available for six different cancers. Those include: brain cancer, call 239-343-9510 for information; breast cancer, call 239-343-9543 or 239-343-9546 for information; gastrointestinal cancer, call 239-343-9502 for information; lung cancer, call 239-343-9510 for information; ovarian/uterine cancer, call 239-343-9543 for information and prostrate cancer, call 239-243-9502 for information.

Health and Wellness Director of Senior Friendship Centers, People Helping People, Julie Ramirez was also at the Wednesday event to provide information for seniors who range in age from 50-64 who have limited income and no insurance. She said they provide basic health screenings, as well as breast and cervical cancer screenings.

The clinic includes five volunteer doctors - three gynecologists doctors and two general doctors for basic exams. It is located at Hatton Rogers Retirement Community, at 4250 Hatton Rogers Lane, North Fort Myers, which is behind the Goodwill clothing store on Business US-41.

Ramirez said that patients have a $25 co-pay when they visit the clinic, which takes care of their lab work for that visit. Senior Friendship Center provides pap smears and free mammograms for those who are qualified.

Ramirez said they wanted to reach out to the Pine Island Community on Wednesday because their clinic is not that far away from the island. She said she has had a few patients from Bokeelia and St. James City who encouraged her to get the word out about the clinic.

Call 239-656-0221 or e-mail for more information about Senior Friendship Centers.

For individuals to receive assistance from Partners for Breast Cancer Care, Darnell said they must have no health insurance, live in Lee County year round, have a prescription for breast care from their physician, have a social security card, and photo ID with a Lee County address, as well as meeting specific financial guidelines.

She said the client has to be up to and including 200 percent of the poverty level.

She said it is about helping the community receive no cost health care.

The organization is able to provide assistance with mammograms, ultrasounds, biopsies, lumpectomies and mastectomies through donations and grants they receive from the community.

Darnell said the organization was also able to negotiate fees with hospitals and radiologist though Partners in Health Care. She said Partners in Health help by providing drastically reduced fees for the services needed.

Bulit said it has been very rewarding helping women and men receive the treatments they need. She said they receive thank you cards and phone calls for their services.

"It's something that fulfills the heart," Bulit said.

She said one of the best things about the organization is she can always direct an individual to various other programs if they do not qualify to receive help from Partners for Breast Cancer Care.

Over the last six and a half years Partners for Breast Cancer Care has helped 7,000 people, 96 of which were diagnosed with breast cancer.



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