By Suzanne C. O’Neill

As a result of effective screening and treatment, outcomes for women diagnosed with breast cancer have improved significantly over the past 25 years. However, these improvements have not been seen equally across all members of our community. To improve these outcomes, researchers from Georgetown Lombardi Cancer Comprehensive Center (GLCCC) partnered with the Thelma D. Jones Breast Cancer Fund (TDJBCF) led by Thelma D. Jones, the African Women’s Cancer Awareness Association (AWCAA) led by Ify Nwabukwu and the American Cancer Society on a research initiative to address breast cancer disparities in the District of Columbia  metropolitan area through an expansion of offered services. 

This initiative, the Achieving Cancer Equity through Identification, Testing, and Screening (ACE-ITS) program, used a community-engaged approach to improve access to many breast cancer services. This included encouraging women who have had mammograms through the breast cancer screening navigation program at the Ralph Lauren Center for Cancer Prevention at Georgetown Lombardi Cancer Center in the past to continue to have regular mammograms and community outreach to identify those in need of screening. Efforts also included identifying women who would be eligible for genetic counseling and testing and making sure that eligible women receive this important care. Care delivery was supported by patient navigation and automated text message reminders and community education events increased awareness of the importance of cancer screening and genetic testing. 

The ACE-ITS program implementation resulted in 22 educational sessions and the navigation of 585 women to mammography screening over the 2020-2021 calendar years. In the year 2021, 292 women received a genetic risk assessment, with seven women receiving genetic counseling and testing.  

The results of the ACE-ITS program were recently published in Cancer, the journal of the American Cancer Society, in a special issue devoted to breast health equity. Thelma D. Jones, AAS, and Ify Nwabukwu, BSN, as well as Jacqueline Beale, MA, serve as co-authors on this work, representing the significant contributions made to the program conceptualization and completion. 

In addition to this recent collaboration, TDJBCF has served as an essential partner to researchers and clinicians at GLCCC since 2015. Recent examples of this include work with Dr. Alejandra Hurtado de Mendoza on the impact of Covid-19 on Latina and Black/African American breast cancer survivors and Drs. Judy Wang and Kristi Graves in testing the use of acupressure as an approach to improve quality of life for breast cancer survivors. 

If you need cancer screening, please contact Thelma D. Jones at (202)251-1639 or or the Ralph Lauren Center for Cancer Prevention at Georgetown Lombardi Cancer Center at (202) 687-5367. 

Suzanne C. O’Neill, Ph.D. is a Professor at Georgetown University Medical Center and the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center.

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