Erie County Medical Center Lifeline Foundation, First Niagara Financial Group. and the Buffalo Sabres Alumni today unveiled a bus that will convey two digital mammography machines to underserved and under-tested women in all areas of Western New York.
With a combined $750,000 contribution from First Niagara Financial Group, the Sabres Alumni Association, and Erie County Medical Center Lifeline Foundation, the clinical operations of the bus will be managed by Western New York Breast Health, the practice of Dr. Vivian Lindfield located in Amherst. Erie County Medical Center Lifeline Foundation, which is contributing to the purchase and operations of bus, will be the owner and maintain the bus.
Western New York had the highest rate of new breast cancer in Upstate New York, according to a 2010 report. In addition, Upstate New York had a higher breast cancer death rate per 100,000 women in 2011 at 24.5 per year, than nationally, 24, statewide, 23.7, or in New York City, 23.9, according to the Susan G. Komen Foundation of WNY.
All women will be welcome for mammographies on the bus. This includes those with insurance or those covered by Medicaid or Medicare, as well as the uninsured. Exams will require a prescription, but women without a primary-care physician can obtain a script at the bus. Appointments will be necessary and an 800-number will be established, as will website links.
“This is a great community program that will actually save lives and the ECMC Lifeline Foundation is thrilled to be a partner in,” said Jody L. Lomeo, ECMC’s CEO and Foundation Board Member. “We hardly finished our presentation when the Sabres alumni and First Niagara said ‘yes’ and stepped up to fund this. We all know someone touched by breast cancer and we all want to see earlier diagnosis and treatment.”
The bus will tour inner-city as well as rural areas of the region. The 45-foot bus will be parked at festivals, health fairs, churches, and community centers to mention a few.
“Among our membership, we’ve had a number of player wives, daughters, sisters and mothers affected by breast cancer,” said Sabres’ Director of Alumni Relations Larry Playfair. “This is such a useful and meaningful addition to the tools the region brings to bear to help thwart this disease. We are committed to this project, and will stay involved with its growth.”
There are only a few dozen such buses in use in various regions of the country. There is one for the whole state of West Virginia and others in Alaska, southwest Florida, Arkansas, Michigan, southern Texas, coastal Connecticut and central Tennessee, and even one operating in Pakistan. One of the first started in 2004 in Western Washington. That program added another in 2008 to keep up with demand.
The program in West Virginia, which has the fifth-highest mortality rate from breast cancer nationally, reached 400 women in 2009 and 1,520 in 2011. ECMC’s bus is expected to test more than 1,500 in its first year.
“We say the bus is for the “underserved”, it is really for the “never-served”,” said John Koelmel, president and CEO of First Niagara. “We all know that the key to surviving any cancer, but especially breast cancer, is early detection and treatment. What better way to provide this care than by saying, ‘You can’t get to us?’ ‘Then we’ll come to you.’”
The bus also furthers ECMC’s commitment to the inner-city neighborhoods around its Health Campus. Although the breast cancer incidence rate is 17 percent lower in African-American women than in white women, the mortality rate among black women is 32 percent higher.
Moreover, the survival rate for breast cancer in African American women is 75 percent, compared with 89 percent among white women. Mammography screening reduces breast cancer mortality by 35 percent to 50 percent, according to the American Cancer Society.
Although 70 percent of white and African American women 40 years and older received mammograms in the last two years, only 54 percent of African American women nationwide reported having a mammogram within the past year in accordance with American Cancer Society guidelines.
“My philosophy has always been about prevention, access to care, and providing a full spectrum of care,” said Dr. Lindfield. “Breast care in Western New York has been fragmented and inaccessible for those in need. Today that changes.”
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