October 14, 2016 — In 2008, Alleyah Miner’s mother went to Capital Breast Care Center (CBCC) for a mammogram after feeling a lump in her breast.
“From the first day that my mom walked in the Capital Breast Care Center, we became a part of their family - my grandmother, my father, me and my sisters, and have received nothing but support and love from them,” Miner said. “And I want to make sure that they can continue to have an impact on more families in this community.”
Miner spoke October 14 at the 9th Annual Gift of Life Breakfast Benefit at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, DC. About 180 people, including breast cancer survivors and their loved ones, attended.
Part of the Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities Research at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, CBCC services include mammograms, transportation to and from screening appointments and patient navigation through outreach, screening and diagnosis.
“When the center was founded in 2004, it was driven by a mission to empower the women in our local community to ensure that all women could have access to quality breast cancer screenings and health education, whether or not you were able to cover the cost for those services,” said Georgetown President John J. DeGioia. Since then, CBCC has screened an average of 1600 patients per year and navigated more than 185 women with breast cancer diagnoses through the health care system.
CBCC’s work is of critical importance in the District, which has the highest breast cancer mortality rate in the country, DeGioia said. “We have a responsibility to address this challenge working with partners around our city and throughout our community,” he said. “I am grateful to each of the doctors, researchers and staff at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, at our CBCC, at MedStar Health, and of course, our community leaders, partners and advocates, for all of your important contributions to this work.”
Fighting fear and spreading hope
“One of the things that I think we have to make sure is that, as a scientific community, as a community of activists, that we dispel the myths and promote good information,” said keynote speaker Vanessa B. Sheppard, PhD, professor and chair of health behavior and policy and associate director for Health Disparities at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Massey Cancer Center. “We have to fight fear with faith and with facts.”
One of the unique things that CBCC does to help dispel fear about breast cancer is connect newly diagnosed patients with survivors, said Vivian Pinn, MD, senior scientist emerita at the National Institutes of Health Fogarty International Center. “Some of us can talk so much about how not to fear breast cancer but what really makes a difference to a woman who’s afraid is hearing from a breast cancer survivor,” she said. “They can identify with that and that can say far more to women who are concerned about breast cancer, seeing who has been through it and is able to share those experiences.”
Raising money and awareness
Funds raised at the Gift of Life Breakfast allow CBCC to continue its work and support families like the Miners. Alleyah Miner and her grandmother, Shirley Ashton, a three-time cancer survivor, served as table captains for this year’s breakfast, encouraging their friends and family members to attend and support CBCC.
Tesha Coleman, CBCC program director, praised the work of the table captains. “They have brought their friends, their family, co-workers, to be able to share that excitement and that good feeling of, we’re giving back, we are going to make a dent in breast cancer mortality in the District,” she said.
“Though my mom ultimately succumbed to this horrible disease, I stand here today so grateful that she was able to take her journey with Capital Breast Care Center,” Miner said. “I believe in the mission of Capital Breast Care Center because it allowed my sisters, brother and I a few additional years with our mother. Thank you for allowing me to share those years full of laughs, hugs, smiles and memories with my mom.”